‘You can’t make enough with minimum wage’: What does it take to get by in Missouri?

It’s been years since Desiree Saunders earned the minimum wage — at that time $2.10 per hour — but the child nutrition worker at Kansas City Public Schools said she constantly sees students whose families struggle because their parents earn Missouri’s minimum wage.

“There’s no way around it,” said Saunders, 56, of Kansas City. “You can’t make enough with minimum wage.”

Many of the students she sees wouldn’t be able to eat if it weren’t for free and reduced lunch, she said.

Missouri’s minimum wage is $7.85 per hour, but an initiative petition on the November ballot would raise it to $12 per hour.

Proponents of the measure — Proposition B — say minimum wage just isn’t livable, but critics worry raising the minimum wage would burden small companies, forcing them to go out of business or cut back on hours. That, they argue, would hurt the very minimum wage workers who hope to benefit from a raise.

Saunders, a steward in the Service Employees International Union Local 1, said she helped collect signatures to get the wage hike on the ballot. She would like to see the minimum as high as $15 per hour, but $12 is a good start.

“But it would also make it so that they would be more accessible to their children,” Saunders said. “They wouldn’t have to work so many jobs.”

As some struggle to make ends meet, The Star’s readers wanted to know: How much does a Missourian need to live comfortably and what would it take to get wages across the state to that level? The Star, in turn, posed the question to its panel of 51 influential Missourians participating in the Missouri Influencers project, which aims to foster a discussion about the biggest issues facing our state.

Read the rest on The Kansas City Star.