Terry Chester was 15 when he got his first job at the I-70 Drive-In, making $2.90 per hour. That was minimum wage at the time.
Decades later, after the recession, he found himself working for minimum wage again as a sacker at Sun Fresh. Chester, 53, has been there five years and now makes $9.85 an hour. He said he lives paycheck to paycheck.
“If I have any added expenses come up, I have to sacrifice a bill, or save money for a prolonged period of time to deal with it,” he said.
Chester is one of many low-wage workers across the state who would see their pay go up if Proposition B passes on Nov. 6. The proposed constitutional amendment would raise the minimum wage by 85 cents a year until 2023, when it would max out at $12 an hour.
This isn’t the first time Kansas City, Missouri, has waged this battle. Last August, 69 percent of voters in the metro area approved a measure to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour, plus a yearly increase of $1.25 starting in 2019 until it reached $15 in 2022.
But state lawmakers blocked it, along with a similar effort in St. Louis, passing a bill that said local municipalities are not permitted to raise their minimum wage independent of the state.
The difference this time around is that the effort to raise the wage is statewide, which Missouri Jobs for Justice Executive Director Caitlyn Adams said is a tested solution.
“This is not the-sky-is-falling theory that folks use,” Adams said, pointing to the gradual minimum wage hike that Arkansas voters approved in 2014.
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