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Missouri voters just hiked the minimum wage by 53 percent

More than 600,000 low-wage workers will get a raise.

A store clerk who asked not to be named places prices on a cigarette display at Discount Smoke Shop Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Ballwin, Mo. Proposition B, on the Missouri ballot Nov. 6, would funnel nearly $300 million annually for statewide public K-12
A store clerk places price tags on cigarettes at a smoke shop in Ballwin, Missouri, on October 31, 2012.
Jeff Roberson/AP

More than 600,000 workers in Missouri are getting a raise.

Voters in Missouri approved Proposition B, a ballot measure that will gradually hike the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023. That’s a 53 percent raise over five years.

Hundreds of thousands of workers in the state who earn the minimum wage will get larger paychecks starting next year, when the first wage increase goes into effect. The current minimum hourly wage is $7.85 and will jump to $8.60 in January.

Missouri is one of two states with minimum wage hikes on the ballot Tuesday. In neighboring Arkansas, voters approved a similar measure Tuesday to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour.

With the passage of Prop B, Missouri joins a growing number of states that have raised the minimum wage as corporate profits are soaring.

In January, a total of 18 states raised their minimum wage, six of which will eventually hit $15 an hour. Some of them happened through similar ballot initiatives, others through the regular legislative process. And they aren’t just deeply blue states. For example, Arizona, Colorado, and Maine boosted the minimum wage this year to about $10 an hour, and will reach $12 an hour by 2020.

The measures are viewed as a solution to one of the biggest problems plaguing the American economy: The nation’s lowest-paid workers have hardly seen their incomes budge even as the US economy continues to grow and enrich those at the top of the income ladder.

The measures are also a response to congressional inaction on the issue — lawmakers in Washington haven’t raised the $7.25 federal minimum wage in nearly 10 years.

Proposition B survived Republican efforts to knock it off the ballot

The approval of Proposition B is a victory for hundreds of thousands of workers in Missouri who earn the minimum wage.

About 677,000 workers in the state will likely get a raise, including more than 36,500 seniors who are working past retirement age, according to the National Employment Law Project, which supported the measure.

The current minimum wage in Missouri is $7.85, slightly higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. The last time the state raised the minimum wage was also through a ballot initiative, in 2016, when 75 percent of voters approved it.

But every year since at least 2014, Republican lawmakers in Missouri have voted down proposals to increase the minimum wage. The last time that happened was in January, when two Democratic lawmakers introduced two separate bills: one that would have eventually raised the wage floor to $12 an hour, and another that would have raised it to $15. Neither bill made it to the floor for a vote.

Instead, the Republican-controlled state legislature tried to block local efforts to hike wage rates. In 2017, the state passed a law barring cities and counties from raising the minimum wage above the state minimum.

The only way to raise wages, then, was to take the issue directly to voters. In May, labor groups collected more than 120,000 signatures to add the question to the November ballot.

The ballot question has also become a central issue in the state’s highly competitive Senate race. Claire McCaskill, the state’s Democratic senator, supports the ballot initiative. Her challenger, Republican Josh Hawley, said he would vote against it.

“I’m going to vote no on the Missouri measure because I’m worried that it will raise the minimum wage here quickly and out of step with other states,” Hawley said during a debate earlier this month.

That’s not true, as the fact-checkers at the Associated Press later pointed out.

Polling showed that Missouri’s ballot measure had wide public support leading up to Election Day, despite repeated Republican efforts to block past wage hikes. And the passage of Proposition B shows that Missouri voters are in line with the rest of the country on the issue: Seven out of 10 Americans believe it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

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