Judge Strikes Down City Minimum Wage Law

Low-wage workers in St. Louis will not be getting the raise they expected on Thursday.

Judge Steven Ohmer ruled Wednesday afternoon that a law boosting the city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018 violated Missouri’s Constitution because it conflicted directly with state law. The first increase, to $8.25 an hour, was to take effect at midnight Wednesday.

“Municipal ordinances are presumed valid, and will be construed in light of the presumption of validity,” Ohmer wrote in his opinion. “If, however, an ordinance conflicts with the general laws of the state, the ordinance is void and unenforceable. Ordinance 70078 conflicts with state law because it prohibits activities that are permitted by Sections 290.500 to 290.530 (the state’s minimum wage law).”

Ohmer heard oral arguments Oct. 6. He had declined to issue a temporary restraining order, saying he would issue a final decision before the increase took effect. He kept his promise, with about seven hours to spare.

Supporters of raising St. Louis’ minimum wage listen to testimony at St. Louis City Hall on June 16.

Ohmer’s ruling marked a victory for a group of business interests, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They had argued that provisions in both state law and the Missouri Constitution restricted the city’s ability to increase the minimum wage on its own. The Missouri Bankers Association had successfully advanced similar arguments against a St. Louis County foreclosure mediation requirement in 2014 — Jane Dueker was the winning attorney in both cases.

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Source: STL Public Radio