Kansas City, Kan. — Many Kansans may not know it, but their state is dead last among the 45 states that have their own minimum-wage laws.
Although the federal minimum wage increased from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour Thursday, the new federal standard doesn't apply to workers for companies that don't engage in interstate commerce or that make less than $500,000 in annual income. That means Kansas employers can pay those workers as little as $2.65 an hour.
On the same day the new federal minimum wage took effect, the Board of Commissioners for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., unanimously approved a minimum wage ordinance to cover such workers in Kansas City, Kan.
Supporters of the new ordinance held a news conference in front of the UG City Hall Friday morning.
UG Commissioner Mark Holland, who cosponsored the ordinance, said "$2.65 is an embarrassment" to the state of Kansas.
"I'm proud to lead a community that is the most progressive in the state in supporting working families," said UG Mayor and CEO Joe Reardon.
According to figures from the Unified Government, the ordinance will affect an estimated 2,300 employees in the city. As of 2006, about 17,00 workers in the state earned less than the then-federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour.
Heidi Zeller, an organizer for Raise the Wage, a project of the Kansas Action Network, which pushed for the ordinance, said the move was a "welcome step forward," because "our neighbors, Missouri and Colorado, were two of more than a dozen states that raised their state minimum wages in 2006."
"I hope the message we send out today goes out east and west," leading to a change in the state's minimum wage law, said Commissioner Mike Kane, the UG ordinance's other sponsor.
The UG ordinance is pegged to the federal minimum wage, which means it will rise in July 2009, when the federal minimum will increase to $7.25 per hour.
The UG ordinance will not apply to agriculture workers, domestic servants working on a casual basis, executive, administrative or professional employees, outside salespeople working on commission, federal employees, volunteers for nonprofit organizations, and executive administrative and professional school district employees during 50 percent or more of their working time.