A Kansas City restaurant association leader says he is raising base pay for his entry-level employees to $10 per hour in response to local voters’ overwhelming approval of a higher minimum wage.
Vic Allred, owner of five Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen restaurants in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, wrote an email to Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed, agreeing to paying the higher minimum wage at his establishments.
Reed had sponsored a resolution, which the city council adopted Aug. 17, calling on local governments and businesses to voluntarily implement a higher minimum wage than the state set minimum of $7.70 per hour.
The resolution followed an Aug. 8 election in which 69 percent of Kansas City voters supported a petition initiative to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by Aug. 24, even though state law prohibits a higher local minimum wage.
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“I wanted to again commit that all my restaurants will voluntarily comply with the spirit of the initiative, and I will covenant to make sure all my employees receive the stated minimum wage of $10 per hour,” Allred wrote to Reed.
“I’m hopeful other businesses will follow, and I’m also hopeful that the business groups represented in Jeff City will consider a raise in the minimum wage from the current $7.70 per hour to $10 per hour.”
Allred’s move follows the Kansas City Public Library, which announced Aug. 24 that it was also raising its base wage to $10 per hour.
In a telephone interview Friday, Allred said most of his employees already make well more than $10 per hour, but a few entry-level hostesses and dishwashers would have their pay boosted from $8 per hour to $10 per hour.
He said he’s been so busy this summer opening a new Jazz restaurant in Independence that he hasn’t had a chance to confer with other restaurant owners to see if they are following suit.
Kansas City’s voter-approved initiative also calls for annual future increases of $1.25 per hour, beginning Sept. 1, 2019, until it reaches $15 per hour in 2022.
Allred said he’s not necessarily on board yet with that level of increase.
Allred is a past chair of the Kansas City and Missouri restaurant associations and is the Missouri state representative on the National Restaurant Association. He said he doesn’t support a patchwork of local minimum wage laws but would support the Missouri legislature adopting an increase to $10 per hour.
His effort would come as low-wage worker advocates are gathering signatures for a statewide initiative election in 2018 to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2023.
Allred said $12 per hour “is not too egregious” but he wants to work with partner organizations such as the hotel-motel association to try to come to a consensus on an appropriate wage.
“We feel the minimum wage should be negotiated at the state level, not at every municipality,” he said.