Fight for $15 continues

Alex Siegman | Staff Reporter

Although many students have been away from St. Louis for the summer, city officials have continued to advocate both for and against an increase in local minimum wage.

Throughout the spring, students, adjunct faculty members and other members of the St. Louis community held rallies and other events on campus to support the Fight for $15 movement, which calls for a $15 minimum wage. At an event on April 7, Washington University senior and social activist Danielle Blocker spoke of the importance of the Fight for $15.

“[They’re] sending a message that some people’s lives do not matter as much as others, some people’s work is just not as important, and we as students are coming together to say, this is not right and we are going to do something to change it,” Blocker said.

Since last spring, the minimum wage for the City of St. Louis has held steady at $7.65. Meanwhile, a Living Wage Calculator created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology states that single adults working full time in the City of St. Louis must earn a minimum of $9.94 an hour in order to support themselves.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27.4 percent of the city’s population of 317,419 lives below the poverty level. In early June, City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay proposed a bill that would institute a $15-an-hour minimum wage by the year 2020. After Slay’s proposal, the bill was sent to the Board of Aldermen.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch discovered that Alderman Joe Vaccaro, acting chair of the Ways and Means committee, canceled all future hearings on the bill, meaning that the aldermen can’t currently pass a minimum wage bill unless a special session is called before they return from summer recess in September.

After the Board of Alderman denied the bill, Mayor Slay tried once more by proposing a compromise bill. This new proposal would bring about an immediate citywide minimum wage of $7.95, rising to $11 by Jan. 1, 2020.

Carl Sanders, an assistant professor at Washington University specializing in empirical labor economics, noted the potential impact of a minimum wage increase.

“It’s obvious to think, who could possibly be opposed to higher wages? That sounds great. But the problem is that they just aren’t familiar with the costs that are associated with this,” Sanders said. “It’s going to have something ranging from a slight positive impact to a slight negative impact, but it’s sort of a secondary thing.”

The Board of Aldermen is currently on summer recess, but an Aug. 28 bill on Governor Nixon’s desk has the power to rescind Mayor Slay’s power to decide the minimum wage for the City of St. Louis.