Politics
11:42 am
Wed February 20, 2013

What $9/hour minimum wage would mean for Mid-Missouri

The minimum wage in Missouri increased 10 cents to $7.35 cents to start the New Year.

That may go up in the near future.

In the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said he wants to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour.

“Today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That's wrong,” Obama said.

The President’s proposal would affect thousands of small businesses nationwide.

One such business is McAlister’s Deli, located off of Grindstone Parkway in Columbia. Matt McAlister, the general manager, has been serving customers sandwiches and spuds since December 2007. 

McAlister wants no part of Obama’s plan.

“I’m not gonna be able to keep my people as long because I have to pay them more. They actually will be working less and maybe probably earning less. I have to raise all the prices on the board by a lot if I’m paying everyone 9 dollars an hour by a lot,” McAlister said.

McAlister also wonders if every American worker deserves $9 an hour.

“If I want to pay somebody $9 an hour-and I do pay some people $9 an hour-they need to be worth $9 an hour. Not just have to pay everybody $9 an hour and then have to pay the people who are actually worth something what $11 an hour now to make it so that actually get more than the people who are just so so,” McAlister said.

On the other hand, Brenda Procter says if she was in the President’s shoes, she would go higher than $9 per hour. Procter is a Personal Financial Planning Associate Professor at MU and has been working with low income families for almost two decades.

If Procter were in Obama’s shoes, she would go even higher than 9 dollars an hour. She feels having more secure workers helps businesses down the road. 

“If you’re paying everyone minimum wage and you have a lot of labor turnover, you’re also retraining all the time. And so there are employers that think it’s better to pay people a livable wage and invest in their training and keep them economically secure because they have better workers over the long term,” Procter said.

However, not everyone is standing with or against Obama on Capitol Hill.

Tobias Epstein is the general manager of Shakespeare’s Pizza in Downtown Columbia. Obama’s proposal does not alarm him. Epstein takes a neutral stance because he still has a service to provide for his customers regardless of if the minimum wage is $7.35 or $9 per hour.

“Our goal is to just do what we do best and go along with whatever gets sent down to us. Whether the minimum wage gets raised or doesn’t get raised, you know our job is to make good pizza and to have a friendly environment to work in,” Epstein said.

However, finding a job at a local business in Columbia might be harder for some applicants if the minimum wage is increased to $9 per hour.

Richard Walls is former President of the Missouri Restaurant Association and current Managing Partner at Heidelberg Restaurant in Downtown Columbia. He said the President’s proposal would make it even worse for the people he thinks it would help.

“If the unemployment’s higher, people tend to take the best applicant and the teenage employee, the person that doesn’t have the job skills will be left behind. So, it will actually hurt the people it intends to help,” Walls said.

Walls notes increasing the minimum wage negatively affects workers that should get more than the bare minimum. 

“It really affects a small business owner. It forces them to make harder decisions before they hire someone. In a stagnant economy, it can affect the ability for deserving employees to receive raises when you raise the minimum wage,” Walls said.

Brenda Procter, at MU, touches on the fact that raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour across all fifty states provides equality in a country wanting to bridge the gap between the poor and rich. 

“I’ve actually had a couple of small business people that I know tell me is that they really wish that they could pay a higher wage and they actually favor an increase in the minimum wage because, if that happens, they’re able to do that and they’re still able to compete with other businesses because they’ve had to do the same thing. And so I think what businesses are looking for is a level playing field,” Procter said.

The next step for Obama’s proposal to become law is it needs to get passed through Congress. If both parties come up with an identical bill and have more votes in favor of a $9 dollar minimum wage raise, the president can then sign.