In response to a proposal in St. Louis to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, issued the following statement:
“St. Louis has joined a growing list of state and municipal governments addressing the crises of poverty wages and income inequality by introducing a proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020.
“With this proposal, supported by Mayor Francis Slay, the fight to raise wages significantly for underpaid workers struggling to get by has spread beyond America’s coastal cities to the heartland. The proposal is a strong and meaningful step towards lifting workers out of poverty, alleviating taxpayers of the unfair burden of subsidizing companies that pay wages so low their employees must rely on public assistance, and boosting the local economy, which will benefit from extra spending that comes with higher wages.
“St. Louis’ action is the latest in a string of very recent game-changing efforts that have given momentum to the Fight for $15 and transformed the national debate about wage increases. Last month, a gubernatorial-appointed wage board in New York held its first meeting on raising wages for fast-food workers, and this month, Los Angeles is expected to become the latest and largest city in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage. SeaTac, San Francisco, and Seattle have already adopted $15 rates, and similar proposals are pending or planned for Washington (DC), Portland (ME), Olympia and Takoma (WA), and Sacramento and Davis (CA). Emeryville (CA) has adopted a $16 rate, and Chicago, a $13 rate. Measures in New York, California, Oregon and Massachusetts propose $15 rates for all workers or workers in specific sectors.
“The Fight for $15, which less than three years ago seemed to many to be a pipe-dream, has set in motion an avalanche of action now touching every corner of the country. St. Louis is the site for the latest advance, but the fight for fair wages and the right to form a union shows no sign of stopping there. Cynics may have dismissed the demand for $15 as unrealistic, but fast-food and other workers have shown what can be achieved by standing together and speaking out about the need for higher pay.”