2 min read
Posted on 08.24.15
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 08.24.15
  • Filed under
  • Minimum wage
  • City Counselor
  • City Charter
  • statute
  • General Assembly
  • Board of Aldermen

The Board of Aldermen will return to session this week to continue consideration of an ordinance that would establish a minimum wage in the City of St. Louis.

I support an increase over the current wage floor. Ideally, such an increase would be statewide or regional. However, the working families of the City who rely on the income of minimum wage jobs should not have to wait indefinitely for the state or adjacent counties to act.

The Board’s discussion will center on the many details of implementing a City minimum wage. But, one issue should not defer their action: the City of St. Louis has the legal authority to adopt a minimum wage if it chooses.

The City Counselor outlines the case this way:

The City has broad authority to enact ordinances that promote the "health, safety, peace, comfort, and the general welfare" of those who live and work here, unless prohibited from doing so by state law or the City Charter.

No enforceable state statute expressly preempts the City’s minimum wage. And the City’s minimum wage does not conflict with any state statute. The State of has a minimum wage statute. This statute simply sets a floor for hourly wages. It does not provide that the only permissible wage is the minimum wage; it does not grant the state the authority to prescribe a comprehensive wage scheme for all employees; and it does not prohibit or regulate wages that exceed the state minimum wage rate. A local ordinance requiring employers to pay above the minimum wage thus fills in a gap where no state law currently applies. In fact, House Bill 722, approved by the MO General Assembly last session, specifically contemplates that local minimum wage ordinances may continue to exist, so long as the ordinances are in effect by August 28, 2015.

The City’s own Charter empowers the City to “prescribe limits within which business . . . liable to be . . . detrimental to the health, morals, security, or general welfare of the people may lawfully be . . . conducted.”

On these arguments, which I find persuasive, a minimum wage established by local ordinance should be upheld if challenged in court. Whatever arguments aldermen find compelling, the legality of their action should not be one of them.