Guest Commentary

To help Missouri’s working families and small businesses, vote yes on Proposition B

Charlie O’Reilly
Charlie O’Reilly

The auto parts company founded decades ago by my grandfather uses as its logo a shamrock, which was chosen to stand for a company that made its own luck by emphasizing the three values of honesty, integrity and hard work.

Our company is still based here in Missouri, which is filled with people who live out these values each and every day. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of our fellow Missourians working for minimum wage. And despite upholding these values by giving their all to put in a full day’s work, our neighbors are falling behind, unable to make their own luck. This includes 170,000 parents and 100,000 seniors and near-retirees.

The sad truth is that the cost of basic necessities has gone up for years, yet, today in Missouri, anyone working full time — 40 hours a week — for the state hourly minimum wage of $7.85 earns only $314 a week. That’s barely $16,000 a year.

I believe it should be a core value that no one who works full time should have to live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet for their family. I hope and believe that everyone in our state agrees that $314 a week in earnings is nowhere near enough for anyone to be able to raise a family, and that we should raise the minimum wage to ensure that hardworking parents can take care of their families, and so that senior citizens can provide for their basic needs.

Fortunately, Missouri voters can vote yes on Proposition B this November to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, which will help workers in every region of our state with the food, housing, health care, transportation and other basic needs that many of us take for granted.

In addition to helping hundreds of thousands of working parents and seniors, Proposition B will help Missouri businesses. Because if workers don’t have enough income, they can’t repair their cars, go out to eat, buy clothing or address any other basic necessities that many of us take for granted. But if people earn more, they spend more, so businesses make more — and that means they may able to hire more workers.

In fact, when the state of Arkansas raised its minimum wage in 2014, more people got jobs, unemployment hit a record low, and the state saw strong economic growth. There are 29 other states that have increased the minimum wage and, in each one, unemployment went down and incomes went up.

That’s why over 400 businesses from across Missouri have already endorsed Proposition B to increase the state’s minimum wage gradually to $12.

The measures that would be enacted by Proposition B are quite reasonable: The minimum wage would increase to $8.60 next year. It would then go up by 85 cents a year until it reaches $12 in 2023. This will give low-wage workers a much-needed increase in income while also giving businesses time to adjust.

In addition to being reasonable, an analysis by the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Economic Policy Institute finds that this proposal will benefit over 670,000 Missouri workers and provide a boost for small businesses as the result of an increase of more than $1 billion in consumer buying power it will bring to our state by the time it is fully phased in.

Many of our neighbors across the state of Missouri are struggling. They work hard, but can’t get ahead on $314 a week. And many of our small businesses are calling for the economic boost the state will see from raising the minimum wage.

This November, I ask everyone to vote in support of Proposition B to raise Missouri’s minimum wage to $12 an hour to help working parents, seniors and small businesses.

Charlie O’Reilly is former president and CEO of O’Reilly Auto Parts.