Making it Work: Discussing Minimum Wage

Martana Stemmons, Freelance Writer

On Tuesday, March 10, I visited the capital and talked to Missouri Representative Caleb Rowden about the increase in minimum wage. I asked Rowden why Missouri’s minimum wage was lower than the majority of the neighboring states, and what he had to say deepened my opinion on the topic.

Missouri’s current minimum wage is $7.65; this change just occurred this year, the original minimum wage was $7.45-$7.50. The wage was raised by only $0.15. This a small step compared to other states who raised their minimum wage to $8.00 even. The difference in price is almost laughable. Missouri is $0.35 lower than our neighboring states. Rowden gave his view as to why he felt it wasn’t as necessary for the minimum wage to be raised to even the playing field with other states. Rowden broke it down to a local level for Columbia: he said there was no need to raise minimum wage to $8.00 because “big” businesses were raising the wage they paid their employees on their own. Though this was a seemingly valid point, he didn’t acknowledge local businesses such as Hy-Vee, Gerbes, Play It Again Sports, or Harmony’s. This means not everyone in Columbia has the same sense of what minimum wage should be for their workers which brings up the argument that not everyone can afford the cost of living.

Since there is such a diversity in wages, this makes it harder for local teens searching for jobs to find one that offers wages that cover their expenses. Many local teens work at local businesses and fast food restaurants, very few work at these “big” businesses that Rowden mentioned. This means their pay is minimum wage, if even that, meaning the money they earn doesn’t offset their expenses. Teens in Columbia now work jobs to help support their families and to save up for long-term goals such as college and cars, as well as having enough money to support themselves. The wages they earn now can barely cover one of the many things they work for. Rowden said businesses pay for the labor they want. If that’s the case, local teens are being cheated out of hard earned money that can be used to help better their futures as well as their lives.

While discussing the problem with the current minimum wage, Rowden brought up some problems as well as benefits that can occur with raising the minimum wage saying that “there are two sides to this issue; you have the employees and you have the business.” The impact of raising minimum wage on the businesses will be heavy because it comes down to if the business can afford to pay more or if they choose not to pay more. For the employees who are the local teens, this makes it easier for them to afford the cost of living while still being able to support their needs. Some states are considering an even higher minimum wage. Rowden used the proposed $15.00 wage as an example of what will happen if the minimum wage is very high. Though this number sounds like heaven to most teens, the consequences of that price will make it meaningless. Inflation and qualified employees increase demand, both of which are things you have to put in the equation of that “heavenly” price.

The debate over increasing the minimum wage continues in Missouri and across the nation. This important issue will remain at the forefront of the minds of legislators and citizens. Have your voice heard by contacting your state representatives.