A gathering of interfaith religious leaders on Sunday urged Kansas City voters to support Question 3 on Tuesday’s ballot to increase the minimum wage.
The issue is headed for the courts if it passes because a new Missouri law will override local control on wages and forbid anything higher than the current $7.70 state minimum wage. Proponents of the law say a higher minimum wage in Kansas City and St. Louis will discourage business investment in the cities.
Advocates of higher pay were not deterred, hoping a resounding yes at the polls will give them political wind and some legal leverage.
“Justice and fairness and dignity should, can and eventually will rule in wages for the working poor in Kansas City,” Vernon Howard, president of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference, told a gathering at his church, St. Mark Union Church.
The ballot question would raise Kansas City’s minimum hourly wage from the state level of $7.70 to $10 initially and eventually to $15 by 2022.
The state law prohibiting that goes into effect Aug. 28.
Howard said 45 percent of Kansas City workers are paid less than $15 an hour.
“We refuse to willingly practice and participate in an unjust economy where power and wealth are not shared more evenly,” Howard said. “As consumers we resist participation in markets that devalue labor’s unmatched and irreplaceable contributions to economic prosperity.”
He said higher wages would benefit everyone with higher productivity and more revenue for local government.
“Not to mention new shoes for poor babies,” Howard added. “Decent housing for poor families. Transportation and health care access for those without power.”
Wesley Reed, a member of St. Mark’s, drew a link between living wages and the larger community good.
“I’m speaking for everybody in Kansas City,” he said. “I’m not the only person who understands that the crime is high because the wages are low.”