Tuesday, July 29, 2008

KCK becomes the first city in Kansas to raise the minimum wage above the lowest-in-the-nation minimum wage of $2.65 an hour



Guest Post by:
Heidi Zeller
Raise the Wage campaign
Kansas Action Network


Wyandotte County Commissioners vote to raise the minimum wage!

Last Thursday, the federal minimum wage rose to $6.55, nearly four dollars above the Kansas minimum wage of $2.65 an hour. Fittingly, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County chose the day as the occasion to raise their local minimum wage rate to the federal level. From today forward, workers in Kansas City, Kansas, will be guaranteed a minimum pay rate nearly two-and-a-half times as high as the state minimum wage.

This is a major success – and we owe this success to the vision of the Wyandotte County Commissioners. Without their civic spirit and initiative, Kansas City workers would remain mired at the Kansas minimum wage level of $2.65 an hour – the lowest minimum wage in the nation. (Forty-four states have minimum wages higher than the Kansas minimum wage, 23 have minimum wages higher than the federal level, and five, in the deep South, have no state minimum wages at all.)

Until today, 17,000 Kansas workers could be paid as little as $2.65 an hour – that is, just over $5,000 a year for full-time employment. These workers are a diverse group, including childcare and eldercare workers, the employees of small industrial firms, and workers in several other occupational classifications not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Today, 14% of that group – an estimated 2,300 workers in Kansas City Kansas – were raised from $2.65 to $6.55. When, next July 24th, the federal minimum wage rises to $7.25, the minimum wage in KCK will follow suit.

Experience has shown that raising the minimum wage greatly helps not only low-wage workers and their families, but the communities in which they live. That's why 33 states have had minimum wages above the federal level (with today's federal increase, some now match that rate). Low-wage workers spend their money instantly and locally, boosting the local economy and expanding the tax base. Our neighbors, Missouri and Colorado, were two of more than a dozen states that raised their state minimum wages in 2006. But Kansas has lagged behind. That's why today's decision to raise the wage in KCK is such a welcome step forward. And that's why so many groups and individuals from faith, labor, and community circles in Wyandotte County have supported the call to raise the wage.

Since January, many Wyandotte County unions, civic groups, private citizens, and elected officials have participated in a fruitful dialogue about the prospect of raising the wage. Today's vote reflects the seriousness of that dialogue and its participants. "Raise the Wage" takes pride in having played a role. Today, we applaud the Wyandotte County Commissioners and everyone else who helped to make today's advance possible. Kansas City Kansas has taken a big step forward, which we hope other Kansas cities (and Kansas itself) will emulate.

Raise the Wage is a project of the Kansas Action Network, a broad-based coalition for workers' rights, social justice and economic fairness. Raise the Wage asks cities in Kansas to increase the minimum wage to the federal level.

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Wichita and Sedgwick County take note... It's our turn to make the change...


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