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Minimum Wage Hike on Ballot

October 24, 1996
By: KELLY JUST AND ELIZABETH McKINLEY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - While Missouri voters will decide November 5 whether to increase the state's minimum wage to $6.25 an hour, state officials say it is unclear if Missouri workers actually would be covered by Proposition A -- or the federal wage law passed earlier this fall.

"There's a real question that's out there comparing Proposition A versus the new federal minimum wage law that just passed as to which one would have precedent," said Tammy Berg, assistant director of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

If passed, Proposition A would raise the state's minimum wage to $6.25 an hour starting this January. That's 32 percent higher than the new federal rate and would make Missouri's minimum wage the highest in the nation.

Berg said there is uncertainty in the department whether the new federal law will supersede the state's Proposition A.

Missouri statutes define which employees are exempt from receiving minimum wage, such as executives, professionals or not for profit volunteers.

Berg said it is "up in the air at this time as to how (Proposition A) will apply and to what the exemptions will be."

Writers of the state wage increase petition said they are unsure if different standards will apply to federal employees working in Missouri.

Craig Robbins, spokesman for Campaign to Reward Work, a group that helped write the petition, said he did not know if federal employees in Missouri would be affected by the $6.25 an hour minimum wage increase.

"That's a good question," Robbins said.

Missouri has 63,000 federal employees living and working in the state. But very few of these federal workers actually are below the minimum wage, so the chances of them being affected are slim.

But the issue touches all Missouri workers, not just federal employees who work in the state.

Berg speculated that this matter could end up in court.

"I think it's pretty safe to say that there will be a challenge, maybe in the form of litigation as to how to define or how to apply the new law, the new Prop A, if it's passed," she said.

She said if the measure passes, the department will have to take a look and see what the law means and which state statues would have to be revised to mesh with the federal law.