With another increase to Missouri's minimum wage taking effect Wednesday, some local business owners say they have yet to see an effect, negative or otherwise.
Proposition B passed by Missouri voters with 62% support in November 2018, and this will be the second increase under the plan.
In January 2019, minimum wage jumped from $7.85 to $8.60 — the first time the wage had been increased since 2006. This week, the wage will increase by 85 cents, rising from $8.60 to $9.45. The minimum wage will be increased again in 2021 and 2022 before reaching $12 per hour in 2023.
With five full-time and one part-time minimum-wage workers, Nena English, owner of Forget Me Not Flea Market, 1702 S. Main St., said this year’s planned increase “will simply be worked into the budget” and added, “It is what it is."
“We’re a family-owned business, and we’re all about helping families,” English said. She supports the minimum wage increase to $12, “because when it goes up, (local shoppers) spend that money locally.”
It’s just a simple matter, she continued, “of give and take.”
Mike Wiggins, owner of Granny Shaffer’s Restaurant, said that the majority of his 40 employees — some of whom have worked at the 2728 N. Range Line Road location for decades — are getting paid above the state’s current minimum wage mark.
“We pay our employees pretty well,” Wiggins said. Last year’s increase “is not affecting us any. ... We are doing fantastic.”
Primarily, the minimum wage increase will affect entry-level workers throughout the state, he said.
“To get out of high school and to make $9.45 (per hour) is pretty good,” he added.
Officials with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which opposed Proposition B, still believe the minimum wage increases hurt the very people they are intended to help. The organization said at the time that pushing up the wage would create "a substantial new burden on businesses across the state. These costs could shutter small employers, leading to significant job losses."
That outlook, said Matt Panik, vice president of governmental affairs for the organization, hasn’t changed in a year's time.
He said the staggered annual increases will give business owners “clarity” to plan for future budgets but added, “It will still cause an increase to the cost of doing business."
The Jefferson City-based organization is still hearing from some of its members about future pay increases “being their major concern,” he said.
Panik also noted lower unemployment rates statewide — 3.1% in October, and even lower in Southwest Missouri — that are pushing up wages. The unemployment rate in the Joplin metro area of Jasper and Newton counties was at 2.8% in September, only one-tenth of a percent above the record low of 2.7% hit during the summer and fall of 2018.
Those low numbers “will create a very tight labor market” and “a competition for jobs,” he said, and that, in turn, will force employers to pay more to keep good employees from leaving for higher-paying opportunities elsewhere.
The biggest effect from the minimum wage increases is to people on fixed incomes, particularly seniors, who would be directly affected as local business owners charge more — whether menu items or store products — to compensate for the spike in paid wages, said Wiggins.
“Everybody will see their prices go up,” he added.
He said he's also seen “people who work for me asking for less hours” in order to make less money per paycheck so they won’t “lose some of their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits" if the wage increase bumps them up into a higher income bracket. The few extra dollars tacked on to the end of a paycheck could cause a single mother, for example, to lose federal benefits, including child benefits and housing subsidies.
With Wednesday’s minimum wage increase to $9.45, Missouri would become the 21st state to offer $9-plus hourly wages.
New minimum wage requirements took effect in 20 states and nearly two dozen cities at the start of 2019, affecting millions of workers. The state wage hikes range from an extra nickel per hour in Alaska to a $1-an-hour bump in Maine, Massachusetts and for California employers with more than 25 workers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Planned increases for Missouri's minimum wage, following a bump from $7.85 to $8.60 per hour on Jan. 1, 2019.:
• $9.45 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
• $10.30 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
• $11.15 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2022.
• $12 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2023.