The national debate still rages over whether a $15 minimum wage is a sustainable goal, given all of the costs involved in running businesses and the reality that wage boosts are inevitably passed on to consumers, who “vote” accordingly with their wallets. Some analysts believe that Seattle’s still-recent implementation is actually harming workers, all while cities like Minneapolis are newly deciding to take that plunge (albeit one that won’t take effect for years). In St. Louis, however, the GOP-led legislature is on the brink of rolling back a recent increase of over $2 per hour.
The story is a complicated one for many reasons but mostly because the wage increase has already gone into effect as of early May. The city boosted the minimum wage from $7.70 to $10.00 (with a further planned increase to $11 per hour in 2018), and workers immediately rejoiced for obvious reasons. Thousands of minimum-wage employees planned to better feed their families and put that money back into the economy. However, businesses immediately pushed back, including one restaurant owner who said that it grew so expensive to pay workers that he had to “cut back from five to two days a week for lunch.” Further, he decreased the size of his entrees, which cost him even more customers.
The New York Daily News now reports that Missouri Governor Eric Greitens will allow the state legislature’s roll-back bill to pass, which takes St. Louis back to the $7.70 state standard. This new-old wage will become effective on August 28. Greitens explained his roll-back support with a statement:
“Our state needs more private sector paychecks and bigger private sector paychecks. Politicians in St. Louis passed a bill that fails on both counts: it will kill jobs, and despite what you hear from liberals, it will take money out of people’s pockets … It’ll hurt them. This increase in the minimum wage might read pretty on paper, but it doesn’t work in practice. Government imposes an arbitrary wage, and small businesses either have to cut people’s hours or let them go.”
Of course, there’s no easy solution to this matter, and for thousands of St. Louis minimum-wage employees, the effect could be devastating. Some of them may have upgraded their living conditions, purchased automobiles, or otherwise made plans for a few hundred additional bucks every month. Yet the difficult realities that St. Louis businesses are facing have prompted legislative action, and while the issue certainly won’t be solved overnight, it sure would have been less jarring if lawmakers had addressed the matter before it became a roll-back. Because that’s never a good look.