St. Louis leaders agree to raise minimum wage to $11 per hour

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Minimum wage workers in St. Louis could soon be joining other workers in cities across the country in getting a raise.

On Friday, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a bill to institute a citywide $11 per hour minimum wage by 2016. Mayor Francis Slay, who supported the bill, signed it an hour after it was approved.

"Dignity is when a family has some money left over to put to the side so that they can grow some equity for a child's future college education, or an emergency medical need," Slay said Friday, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

The city now joins several others across U.S. in setting its own wage minimum. The federal rate is $7.25, while Missouri's minimum wage is $7.65.

The vote on the issue met an important deadline after Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill in July that would have blocked cities from raising the minimum wage beyond the state's level. Lawmakers however could override Nixon's veto during a special September session.

A provision of the bill states that it does not override any local minimum wage ordinance requirements already in effect as of Friday. The first increase to $8.25 an hour would not begin until Oct. 15, then it would rise to $9 on Jan. 1, 2016, $10 an hour in 2017, and $11 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018.

St. Louis’ mayor had had endorsed a higher minimum wage, believing that tens of thousands of city residents would benefit, while opponents contended it could drive out businesses unable or unwilling to pay the higher wage.

Alderman Jack Coatar told the St. Louis Post Dispatch the increase could prevent new businesses from opening as the city struggles to compete against wealthier neighbors in St. Louis County, which has declined to adopt its own minimum wage.

"We are competing every day against Clayton," Coatar told the newspaper Friday, suggesting that St. Louis' rising crime rate and increased regulations are holding it back.

Twenty-nine states now have a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25, and several cities have set their own minimums. Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, California, all have begun phasing in a minimum wage that will hit $15 per hour within the next few years.

A regulatory board in New York last month raised the minimum to $15 for fast food workers.

Click for more from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.