by Nancy Stiles
Minimum wage is a hot topic across the country, especially with restaurant workers. Fast-food employees have staged countless protests over the past year. President Obama called for action in his State of the Union address.
The state minimum wage in Missouri is currently $7.50, but Euclid Hospitality group, which owns Pi Pizzeria and Gringo announced this week in conjunction with the mayor's office that it will be raising its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
"It's the right thing to do," Euclid co-owner Chris Sommers tells us. "We began doing analysis to make sure it wouldn't hinder our business so much that we wouldn't be able to grow or even maintain the employment of those affected by it. It was pretty telling."
Sommers says once they found they could afford to raise wages, it was a no-brainer. He says the cost more than makes up for itself in less turnover and security for their employees. Sommers has worked with the mayor's office before in the course of being a small-business owner, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try and inspire others to raise wages as well.
Mayor Francis Slay has already raised the minimum wage for all city employees. Communications director Maggie Crane says it ended up only affecting nineteen part-time employees who were making less than $10.10 -- most already made $12.21.
"This is kind of an anomaly," Crane says. "You hear a lot of restaurants or smaller retailers talking like, 'We cant afford this.' And Chris is saying 'Yeah, we can afford it.'"
Sommers also emphasizes the fact that the cost of higher wages will not be passed on to the customer. In fact, Pi hasn't raised its prices in six years, nor does it plan to.
"A little incremental difference can go a long way," Sommers says. "It's not a ton of money, but it's a big difference to those who are at the lower end of the pay structure." Euclid's new wage policy will go into effect April 1.
"Our industry overall is doing a lot better than it was from 2008 to 2010, and in most industries where there's demand for talent, rising wages follow that demand," he says. "We need to take it upon ourselves to make sure the people at the lower end of the pay grade aren't just scraping by."