Last month, a group that included a small business owner, clergymen and workers testified in support of Senate Bill 531 before a Missouri Senate committee.

Democratic Senator Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis introduced the bill to authorize a ballot referendum raising the minimum wage in Missouri to $10. It is currently $7.50. Those testifying stated that a higher minimum wage will give a boost to the lowest wage workers and their families, while restoring some of fairness to the state’s labor market. Raising the minimum wage also pumps up the economy, as workers’ disposable incomes increase and funds are re-circulated. When low-wage workers get additional income, they don’t sock it away in stock options and hedge funds. The money is spent meeting their daily needs and is funneled right back into the community.

Opponents believe that the average worker being paid minimum wage is a teen living with mom and dad and working an entry-level position. Statistics indicate that fully half of our country’s lowest wage workers are 25 years or older, 25 percent are married, and 72 percent have at least a high school degree. In the state of Missouri, women make up 70 percent of the state’s minimum wage workforce.

Minimum wage laws were originally put in place to keep wages from being driven down by the marketplace. But, minimum wages haven’t increased with inflation; the purchasing power of the workers has steadily declined even as their productivity and educational levels have risen.

Under present conditions, a worker making minimum wage and working full time who has one dependent will fall below the poverty line. In larger families, the disparity increases even more. If minimum wage laws increase to $10 per hour, a family of three could rise above the poverty line. Their quality of life would dramatically improve, and the state’s poverty rate would decline.

It is unknown how this will play out in Missouri at this time. Workers at all pay levels should follow this closely, as it could affect their employers’ bottom lines, and thus, their own jobs.

If you are working for less than the minimum wage for Missouri (and you are not a waiter or waitress), you may want to speak with an attorney familiar with Missouri’s wage laws to see if you have a cause of action.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “$10 minimum wage would benefit low-wage workers, Missouri’s economy” Allan MacNeil, Feb. 26, 2014