© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missourians could vote to boost state’s minimum wage and establish paid sick leave

The Missouri state minimum wage will increase from $7.85 an hour to $8.60, after voters approved Proposition B in November.
Rici Hoffarth
St. Louis Public Radio
The state's minimum wage would increase to $15 an hour by 2026 if voters ultimately approve a proposed ballot initiative later this year.

Last week was a busy, and fruitful, period of time for groups wanting to place policy changes on Missouri’s 2024 ballot.

And while much of the attention turned to efforts to legalize abortion and sports betting, another initiative that could boost the minimum wage above $15 an hour and establish paid sick leave also seems primed to make it to Missourians later this year.

Missourians for Healthy Families and Fair Wages turned in roughly 210,000 signatures last week to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office. The measure would raise the state’s minimum wage to $13.75 an hour next year – and eventually move it up to $15 an hour by 2026.

Once it reaches $15 an hour, the minimum wage will continue to go up based on changes in the Consumer Price Index starting in 2027. Currently, Missouri’s minimum wage is $12.30 an hour.

Missourians could vote to boost state’s minimum wage and establish paid sick leave

“What we've seen is there's over half a million Missourians that, unfortunately, still make under $15 an hour,” said Richard von Glahn, the campaign manager for Missourians for Healthy Families and Fair Wages on The Politically Speaking Hour on St. Louis on the Air. 

“We think it's important that workers be recognized for the value that their labor produces and compensated fairly for that. But this is a phase and in a step that we think raises the floor for everybody.”

Unlike other initiatives to boost the minimum wage in 2006 and 2018, the group’s initiative also would require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. While von Glahn said the proposal doesn’t have strict penalties for employers who don’t comply with this part of the initiative, he doesn’t expect resistance since it doesn’t benefit companies to have employees continue to work when they’re ill.

“There was a little bit of time built in for companies to learn about the law and be prepared to follow the law,” he said. “So we're not looking to punish people, but we're really looking to make sure employees have this right and are able to exercise it.”

The 2006 and 2018 efforts to raise Missouri’s minimum wage passed easily and didn’t face any organized opposition — though some business groups, like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, criticized the measures at the time.

Since the Missourians for Healthy Families and Fair Wages initiative is a statutory change, it would be hypothetically possible for the legislature to either alter or completely repeal it. But the legislature didn’t end up repealing either of the prior minimum wage initiatives — and von Glahn said their huge margin of passage provided pause to state lawmakers.

“So while legally, the legislature could come back, what they would be doing is often overturning the vote of their own constituents,” von Glahn said. “And so while they, in theory, could do that, we feel very confident that they will respect people's voices.”

Tori Schafer, with the ACLU of Missouri, speaks to supporters of an initiative petition that seeks to enshrine abortion rights within the Missouri constitution on May 3, 2024.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
Tori Schafer, with the ACLU of Missouri, speaks to supporters of an initiative petition that seeks to enshrine abortion rights in the Missouri Constitution on Friday.

Initiative petition process rebounds after rough 2022

Ashcroft’s office needs to validate that von Glahn’s group got the necessary signatures to appear on the 2024 ballot. Unless he speeds up that process, voters will likely make the final call in November.

Von Glahn’s organization turned in signatures the same week as groups seeking to legalize abortion and sports betting. Both submitted far more than the roughly 171,000 signatures needed, though without a speeded-up verification process, it won’t be known until the summer if they got enough in six out of eight congressional districts to qualify for the ballot.

Two years ago, groups seeking to change Missouri’s constitution or state statutes struggled with collecting the necessary signatures. An ultimately successful bid to legalize marijuana barely got enough, while a separate effort to implement ranked choice voting fell far short of the needed signatures. Some organizers cited problems with the paid signature canvassers.

Von Glahn said this year’s efforts to change policy through the initiative petition process showcases Missouri’s enthusiasm for the tool.

“[Initiative petitions] have been part of the toolkit of Missouri's democracy for 100 years,” he said. “And I think people value that process and like to be able to bring issues to a vote with their neighbors.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr and the production intern is Roshae Hemmings. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

Stay Connected
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.