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Lewis Reed: The Mayor’s office is playing politics with minimum wage proposal

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

After the push for increasing minimum wage in St. Louisresumed, two of the city’s top Democratic leaders

Aldermanic President Lewis Reed in a letter released to the media rejected the latest proposal on minimum wage, stating that it “falls way short of providing relief to working families” while at the same time “institutes new system of inequalities, disincentives for students, and loopholes.”

On Wednesday, Reed joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss the latest proposed version on minimum wage, along with other issues addressed during the Board of Aldermen’s last session.

‘There are big holes in this bill’- Reed

The new minimum wage proposal in St. Louis would increase wages from $7.35 to $11. While President Lewis Reed rejects the proposal, he said the move was necessary because the bill consists of complications that would affect families.

“There are big holes in this bill,” Reed said. “And it’s going to take some time to get this thing done right.”

According to Reed’s letter of rejection, the following workers would be exempt from the current proposed legislation:

  • Employees with disabilities
  • In-home service workers
  • Full-time students
  • Students in a work study program
  • Employees at child care centers
  • Employees at assisted living, residential care, or nursing home facilities
  • Employees who work for a government entity (non-civilian)

In a statement to St. Louis Public Radio, Mary Ellen Ponder, Mayor Francis Slay’s Chief of Staff, responded to Reed’s letter:
"There is a small window of time before the General Assembly overrides the Governor's veto.  If President Reed doesn't call the Board of Aldermen into session, there will be no increase at all to the minimum wage.

I didn't know President Reed opposed the minimum wage bill because he thought the increase was too low.  I thought he opposed it because he promised the lobbyists that he would never let it have a final vote."

Although Reed said he supports a higher minimum wage, he feels the Board of Aldermen has not had sufficient time to consider the current proposal.

Reed is considering calling a special session with the board between now and August 28 to reconsider the bill, if the Mayor’s office “begins to address this in a real way and not continue to play politics,” he said. In addition, Reed stated that the bill needs more supporting data to show its impact on the economy and workers.  

In response to Ponder’s statement, Reed said that he found her comments discouraging.

“I am outraged and dismayed that the mayor’s office chief of staff and his administration would come out with a statement like that, knowing the mess that they’ve made of this thing across the city,” Reed said. “But at the end of the day, if they continue this process, we’re going to end up with workers not making one penny more [and] the business community in turmoil. We have to get through this process in a real way.”

On the increase in violent crime in St. Louis City

To combat the rise in violence, city officials have proposed adding 160 new officers over the next two years. Other suggestions include implementing a gun court, ranking judges on how often they give probation to people facing gun charges, and providing more services that improve the socioeconomic conditions that often lead to crime.

“You probably have as many guns floating around St. Louis County as you do St. Louis City,” Reed said. “But when you look at the crime rate, there is absolutely no comparison. The reason is, is because there are other things that exist in St. Louis County that are non-existent in the city.”

“Until we approach those [differences] in a real way, we’re not going to see any change [in crime],” Reed added. “If we’re not doing those things that it takes to drive our crime rate down in a real substantive matter, we should not be surprised when the numbers come back and they are staggering.”

Reed also discussed the proposed new football stadium, the Confederate monument in Forest Park, and the General Obligation Bond, to be voted on next month.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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