No consensus emerging in KC minimum wage fight

From the Kansas City Star

Six weeks ago, the Kansas City Council put off a decision on a minimum wage increase in hopes of finding middle ground between $15-per-hour advocates and business groups adamantly opposed to that idea.

Now, as the council’s self-imposed July 16 deadline for a vote looms, a solution remains elusive.

“The two sides just talk past each other,” Mayor Sly James told his council colleagues, describing weekly roundtable discussions between supporters and foes of an increase above the current $7.65-per-hour rate. “Although I think it’s been beneficial to have the two sides talking, it hasn’t produced any agreement of anything.”

Council members still pledge that by July 16, they will try to adopt some type of minimum wage increase in response to a certified petition initiative. That grass-roots initiative called for a public vote to boost the rate to $10 per hour by Sept. 1 and to $15 per hour by 2020.

“We’re the ones in the middle,” James said, with no clear answer in sight.

Restaurant, hotel and other business groups went ballistic over the initiative petition in May, so James and the council bought time until July 16 to gather more information and to try to find a compromise.

Advocates for low-wage workers say they are looking to the city to set the standard for a higher minimum wage in Missouri.

“Kansas City is a progressive leader in the Midwest,” said Lindsey Walker with the Service Employees International Union in Kansas City. “We should step up and continue to be a leader.”

Business interests see peril in a higher minimum wage rule.

“The marketplace” — not the city — “should dictate minimum wage,” countered Bud Nicol, executive director of the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City.