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Groups continue push to get Kansas Citians to vote for minimum wage raise in August

The Rev. Vernon Percy Howard Jr. (at podium) of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City encouraged people to vote to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City at a news conference Thursday at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church.
The Rev. Vernon Percy Howard Jr. (at podium) of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City encouraged people to vote to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City at a news conference Thursday at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church. ssanderson@kcstar.com

Activists poured into the sanctuary of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday night to call for a $15 minimum wage in Kansas City.

The roughly 90 Kansas Citians present at 2310 E. Linwood Blvd. were part of a kick-off rally for a living wage hosted by a coalition known as KC for $15. The coalition has support from local organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, the Committee to Abolish Poverty and Communities Creating Opportunity.

Voters will consider a ballot initiative in an Aug. 8 special election that aims to raise Kansas City’s minimum wage. If passed, the initiative would raise the city minimum wage to $10 per hour on Aug. 24 and then raise it incrementally over time. The minimum wage would hit $15 per hour in 2022.

Thursday’s event began with the Rev. Vernon Percy Howard Jr. of the SCLC calling for voters to go to the polls, before deferring to the Rev. Susan McCann of Communities Creating Opportunity and Wesley Reed, a union worker, in a news conference before moving to the church’s sanctuary.

Once inside the sanctuary, a series of speakers continued the call for action to a crowd mostly concentrated in the foremost pews. Organizers said about 60 of the Kansas Citians present had added their contact information to the group’s list for further efforts.

Kansas City Council passed an ordinance in March that would increase the minimum wage in the city to $13 an hour by 2023.

It is not clear if either the ordinance or the ballot initiative would have an effect on workers’ pay. The Missouri General Assembly voted this spring to disallow cities from setting their own minimum wages. The matter may wind up in court, Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed said in May.

McCann acknowledged the legal challenge that the initiative would likely face if it passes but said it did not diminish the importance of the initiative.

“It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing,” McCann said.

Shane Sanderson: 816-234-4440, @shanersanderson

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