Editorials

Support Kansas City businesses that pay workers a living wage

In Kansas City, it takes $11.05 to get by on a “living wage” and afford basic necessities, according to calculations by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In Kansas City, it takes $11.05 to get by on a “living wage” and afford basic necessities, according to calculations by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. File

Kansas City’s fight to raise the minimum wage was thwarted by state legislation. But some businesses have voluntarily reassessed their pay structure for low-wage workers.

And the city wants to embrace these forward-thinking companies.

A living wage registry was recently unveiled. It puts a spotlight on employers who pay worker wages higher than the national and state minimums.

Businesses that register receive a distinctive sticker that can be displayed for their customers and employees. Two companies signed up the first day.

Councilwoman Katheryn Shields introduced the ordinance that established the registry. She said a company’s greatest asset is its employees. To invest in them should be applauded and supported.

Ultrapom Event Rental, one of the businesses on the registry, has paid their employees a minimum of $12 per hour since 2014, majority owner Carolyn Campbell Schwartz said. The seven-year-old company has 15 full-time and 12 part-time employees.

“People need to be able to make ends meet but still live,” Campbell Schwartz said.

The creation of the registry lends itself to another call for a citywide push for higher wages. The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce could throw their collective might behind the issue to jumpstart the discussion.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, while the state minimum wage is $7.85 an hour. Some retail or service businesses are not required to pay the state minimum wage.

Kansas City voters approved a measure last August to set the City’s minimum wage at $10 an hour, gradually increasing to $15 per hour by 2022. But state law now prohibits cities from enacting a minimum wage different than the one used in the rest of Missouri.

Employers have laudably taken the initiative to pay their employees at least a $10 wage. Kansas City employees make at least $10 an hour, as do workers in the Kansas City Public Library system.

Library director Crosby Kemper III called it “the right thing to do” when the library system implemented the change last year.

Paying less than $10 in Kansas City is borderline criminal. A full-time employee should be able to afford a basic standard of living.

Other Kansas City employers should follow the lead of the businesses on the registry and boost pay. And patrons should seek out and support businesses that pay a living wage.

Higher pay can help companies recruit and retain workers while making Kansas City a better place to live and work. And that’s the bottom line.

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