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State laws preempting or nullifying higher local wages perpetuate economic inequality in American cities, hurting women and minority workers who are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs, researchers say. More than 60 percent of affected workers affected in St. Louis, Birmingham and Miami Beach are people of color, according to the study.
“Missouri was one of the most egregious examples of an overwhelmingly white legislature undoing the will of local communities,” said Laura Huizar, a senior staff attorney for NELP and co-author of the report. “Preemption has been used as a tool to undermine higher wages, protect corporate profits, and cancel the voices of blacks and Latinos.”
In addition to invalidating the local pay increases in St. Louis and Kansas City, the Missouri law blocked the introduction of new employment benefit requirements such as paid sick leave and health, disability and retirement benefits. The St. Louis minimum wage had been scheduled to rise to $11 an hour by 2018. Kansas City’s was supposed to go up to $13 by 2020.