A lawsuit brought by a consortium of businesses and business groups was heard in St. Louis City Circuit Court on October 6. The suit was filed to block a St. Louis City ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by the beginning of 2018.
After two hours of oral argument, Judge Steven Ohmer indicated his ruling would not address the merits of the wage increase, but whether the ordinance exceeds the city’s authority and is, therefore, unconstitutional. A ruling is expected quickly in advance of the first scheduled increase to $8.25 on October 15, 2015.
Attorney Jane Dueker of the St. Louis office of Spencer Fane is representing the business coalition. She argued, “The city does not have the authority under its charter” to enact a local wage floor in excess of that required by state law.
Her arguments before the court relied, in part, on a 1998 law, §67.1571 RSMo. that reads:
No municipality as defined in section 1, paragraph 2, subsection (9) shall establish, mandate or otherwise require a minimum wage that exceeds the state minimum wage.
The definition referred to in the above provision includes “any city.”
A judgement handed down in September of this year by the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri is consistent with attorney Dueker’s argument. There, the court ruled a citywide wage mandate approved this summer by the KC City Council “is inconsistent with [§67.1571 RSMo.] and is, therefore, unconstitutional, on its face.”
MRA will notify its members at once after Judge Ohmer rules on the matter.
MRA’s participation in the lawsuit reflects its belief that the establishment of any minimum wage is a matter clearly reserved for state law and, further, that in order for Missouri to attract and retain job opportunities for its citizens, our state needs one consistent standard for wages and benefits – not a confusing patchwork of many different local laws.