Plan to Undermine New Minimum Wage Is Latest Display of Contempt for Voters

By Daily Editorials

February 19, 2019 3 min read

Missouri legislators are at it again, plotting to overturn a statewide vote, this time by chipping away at the new state minimum wage. A measure being cobbled together in the state Senate would freeze wages of tipped restaurant workers and create, out of thin air, a lower minimum wage for workers under 18.

This isn't what voters who overwhelmingly approved Proposition B in November wanted. But as Missouri lawmakers have shown again and again, they have bottomless contempt for the voters' will. If legislators are cynical enough to actually pass this blatantly anti-democratic measure, Proposition B proponents should haul them into court.

Missouri voters admittedly sent some mixed messages in last year's elections. Even as they gave the GOP almost complete control of state government, they used ballot measures to codify positions that Republicans have historically opposed. In a series of initiatives, voters rejected Missouri Republicans' anti-union "right-to-work" scheme, and approved legalization of medical marijuana, expanded government transparency and the state minimum wage hike.

GOP lawmakers had the perfect right to try to sway voters on those initiatives last year — before the election. But their only official position now should be: The voters have spoken. Instead, they've been busily trying to undo with legislation what they couldn't stop at the ballot box.

Almost two-thirds of Missourians voted in November to hike the state's minimum wage from the previous $7.85 an hour to $12 over four years. It was a strong statement from voters that, while they were willing to maintain Republican control of government, they reject the party's stubborn refusal to raise wages for the most vulnerable workers.

That should've been the end of it. But the proposed Senate measure, which could get a committee vote Thursday, would weave loopholes into the new law. It would mandate that workers under 18 get paid just 85 percent of the minimum wage. And it would freeze the base pay of waiters and other tipped workers, currently set at half of whatever the minimum wage is, so that it doesn't continue to rise as the minimum wage rises.

Lower pay for under-18 workers would inevitably mean some older workers losing their jobs as employers opt for lower-paid teenagers. The gap would grow between tipped workers' frozen base pay and the rising minimum wage — meaning a waitress would have to earn more in tips than she did before just to keep up with nontipped workers.

By definition, this measure undermines what the voters approved just three months ago. If legislators still have a shred of respect for the voters' verdict, that alone should be reason enough to kill it.

And if they continue to defy the will of the voters on this and other ballot issues, those voters shouldn't forget that when these folks next ask for their votes.

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Photo credit: at Pixabay

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