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Activists continue push for minimum wage increase

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Talent voted against a bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 per hour.

The Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition backs an effort to get a similar state wage increase on the November ballot.

Washington University economics professor Fred Raines says the 19 states that have rates higher than the federal standard have reaped rewards.

"In 2005, their unemployment rate was actually lower by a slight amount than the 31 states that had the federal minimum," Raines said. "So the objection that says we can't afford to raise the minimum wage because it will cause unemployment is false."

However, Missouri industry groups say a mandated minimum wage increase threatens their ability to compensate more experienced workers.

Associated Industries of Missouri president Gary Marble says that rate would be indexed up every year...harming local businesses.

"There is no study that shows that increasing a minimum wage every year will decrease unemployment," Marble said. "That's impossible, because now you're increasing your cost of doing business every year. So it would make sense that that would cost jobs rather than increase the workforce."

At $6.50 per hour, Illinois is among those states whose minimum wage rate is higher than the federal standard.