A group of restaurant and business advocates has started gathering petition signatures to try to overturn Kansas City’s new minimum wage law.
The group of opponents has turned in 100 signatures to get the petition drive under way and has until Aug. 25 to gather about 3,400 signatures for a referendum election.
They are challenging the City Council-approved measure to raise the minimum wage from the state-mandated $7.65 per hour to $8.50 per hour on Aug. 24, with ongoing annual increases to $13 per hour by 2020.
“We feel it is an experiment that is too risky,” said David Jackson, spokesman for Missourians for Fair Wages, a newly formed group of restaurant, hotel and other business associates that is backing the referendum petition drive.
Jackson said restaurant associations and others believe the City Council acted too hastily, and they want to slow down city action to make sure it doesn’t adversely affect the local economy.
Proponents of Kansas City’s higher minimum wage condemned the new petition drive.
“We all know the voters support raising the wage, and the mayor and City Council knew their constituents supported a strong move towards a living wage when they voted 12-1 for the ordinance earlier this month,” said the statement from Jobs with Justice, which campaigned for the higher wage.
“This is an attempt to disrupt and delay implementation of the ordinance that was passed fair and square, and we are going to fight this abuse of the referendum process at every turn.”
On July 16, the City Council voted to adopt the highest minimum wage in the state following months of heated debate. Advocates for low-wage workers said the raise was essential to lift people out of poverty, while small business owners and others said it would kill jobs and hurt Kansas City’s economy.
If opponents gather the 3,400 valid signatures needed for a referendum, the new council that takes office Aug. 1 could repeal the ordinance approved by the previous council. Or the council could put the minimum wage question to a public vote.
Meanwhile, there could be a separate Kansas City ballot measure for an even higher minimum wage, $15 per hour by 2020. That’s because a different group of faith-based and social justice organizations already had a certified petition initiative for the $15-per-hour plan.
The social justice groups waited to see what the City Council would do July 16, but since the council went with $13 per hour rather than the $15 per hour goal, the initiative petition still could move forward. A decision from that group is due Friday on whether to seek an election later this year.
To ease confusion over the situation, the city has set up a website with the ordinance language and more information. It’s at www.kcmo.gov/minimum-wage.