Editorials

Missouri lawmakers trying to overrule voters on minimum wage hike aren’t short on gall

Rieger restaurant owner Howard Hanna on paying his staff above minimum wage

The Rieger restaurant owner Howard Hanna talks about Missouri minimum wage vote and his restaurant's protocol of paying well above the minimum wage
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The Rieger restaurant owner Howard Hanna talks about Missouri minimum wage vote and his restaurant's protocol of paying well above the minimum wage

One thing the Republican majority in the Missouri legislature can never be accused of is a shortfall of gall.

Mere months after the state voted quite lopsidedly in favor of boosting the minimum wage, GOP lawmakers are hard at work undermining the will of the 62.3 percent of Missouri voters who approved Proposition B.

State Rep. Robert Ross has introduced a bill that would repeal the minimum wage increase altogether.

And state Sen. Mike Cunningham is working on a bill that would create a lower minimum wage for workers who are under 18 years old. It would freeze — at $4.30 an hour — the minimum wage for workers who receive tips.

Again, that’s not what voters said they wanted when they cast ballots in favor of gradually raising the wage to $12 by 2023.

But Cunningham, a farmer who once owned a grocery store, says he’s only thinking of the teenagers he would have had to fire rather than pay the increased minimum wage, which on Jan. 1 was boosted from $7.85 to $8.60.

Under his bill, which could be introduced on Thursday, those under 18 would make only 85 percent of the minimum wage: “I’m trying to make jobs for kids so they can save for college, help out with expenses and increase their work skills.”

Kind as that is, what about the older minimum wage workers who would be pushed out in favor of younger and cheaper labor?

Democratic state Sen. Lauren Arthur sees this effort as an “undemocratic” and “condescending” subversion of the will of the people.

Her Republican colleagues in Jefferson City also want to gut “Clean Missouri” ethics reforms and even reverse the voters’ clear rejection of Missouri as an anti-union “right-to-work” state.

“Why does a vote to elect them count more than a vote to raise the minimum wage?” Arthur asked.

It doesn’t, of course, and when lawmakers so blithely and blatantly ignore constituents, they deserve to be voted out of office.

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