City vs. State: The Kansas City Minimum Wage Challenge

By Adam Roberts

Published on August 29, 2017

Tracking city minimum wage rates is difficult and time-consuming. Beyond the actual rate, there’s so much to know about the corresponding laws: tip credits, sub-minimum wages and indexes or planned increases can significantly affect workers and employers.

A prime example today is Kansas City, Mo., which is experiencing one of the most dramatic minimum wage challenges in the country.

In 2015, the Kansas City Council approved an ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $13 per hour. Instead of going into effect, it spent two years in court.

This year, following a Supreme Court ruling, the city minimum wage increased to a $10 rate. But then, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill preempting local jurisdictions from enacting a minimum wage different from the state-mandated rate. Governor Eric Greitens allowed the state preemption bill to become a law without his signature; it goes into effect Aug. 28.

Undeterred by the state’s action, workers rallied this summer and successfully placed the $10 per hour minimum wage increase proposal on a public ballot on Aug. 8, 2017, which received massive support from Kansas City voters. 68.3% of voters voted yes and 31.7% voted no. The minimum wage increase went into effect Aug. 24, four days before the state preemption law’s effective date.

With the newly passed state preemption law still overruling the publicly supported measure, workers and minimum wage supporters continue to defend their four days of increased wages. Several sit-ins were held at city restaurants, and related activities in the Kansas City area are planned for the Labor Day holiday.

More than 100 local businesses, including the Kansas City Public Library, have pledged to voluntarily honor the preempted higher minimum wage rate and pay their employees at least $10 per hour.

Despite the four days of the $10 rate the state-mandated wage rate of $7.70 per hour will apply to Kansas City workers for the foreseeable future.

Minimum wage continues to be a hot topic in employment law. Labor Law News is tracking all the legislative changes, court cases and ballot initiatives to keep you informed on minimum wage laws.

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