Metro minimum wage workers grateful for pay increase as Prop B takes effect in Missouri

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In November, Missouri voters approved Proposition B, and on New Year's Day it started paying off for minimum wage workers across the state.

The employees at Pickleman's in KC, for example, are among the tens of thousands of minimum wage workers now making $8.60 an hour, as of Jan. 1. That might not sound like a lot, but on Dec. 31 they were making just $7.85, which came to $314 a week before taxes for full-time minimum wage employees.

"This is a huge step in the right direction for workers," said Wilson Vance, with Missouri Jobs with Justice.

Thanks to Vance's hard work -- and the hard work of her organization, Proposition B passed, increasing the minimum wage in Missouri to $8.60 in 2019. That's an extra $100 a month.

"That's a light bill, multiple prescriptions. That's school supplies for your kids. That's three tanks of gas. I mean, that's going to be a life-changing amount for thousands of people who have been struggling to get by for years," Vance said.

Sarah Phelps has worked at Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe for three years. She's experience the struggle to live on minimum wage.

"Personally, it is helping with my bills. It really is," she said. "I am able to actually take some vacation time and not feel bad about taking a day off that I don't necessarily need to take off."

"The wage increase, it's going to hurt a little bit, but in the long run, we want people to be valued," said Daniel Slabotsky, Phelps' boss at Pickleman's. "People have lives and families that they need to support, and that is a big part of our business."

While some companies are raising prices to compensate for the increase in pay, Slabotsky said Pickleman's has decided not to.

This  year's minimum wage increase is just the beginning. What follows is an 85-cent increase to the minimum wage every year until 2023 when it will top out at $12 an hour.

Vance, who grew up in a minimum wage household and has worked for minimum wage herself, called it a game-changer.

"I would want to say thank you to the 1.5 million voters in Missouri that voted yes. I am really, really proud to be a Missourian today," she said.

The fight for minimum wage increases in Missouri was a tough one. Some economists and others who oppose the hike believe it's not going to be good for unskilled workers.

Those against the increase fear unskilled workers might be forced out of the market, replaced with skilled workers or their jobs could simply be eliminated. These folks say paying market incomes is better than forcing a minimum wage.

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