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Louisville becomes 1st city in the South to raise minimum wage, joins 20 cities across country

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville became the first city in the South to raise the minimum wage, joining 20 other local governments nationwide that have increased the hourly wage.

The Louisville Metro Council voted Thursday night to raise the minimum wage to at least $9 per hour by 2017. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.

The increase means workers earning the current minimum will get a 24 per cent raise by 2017, and could earn $3,640 more per year before taxes if they work 40 hours per week.

“It is a balanced compromise solution that gives hardworking families a raise while minimizing the risks of job losses in our city,” Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer said.

Minimum wage ordinances gained steam across the country this year as Democrats sought to press the issue during a contentious midterm election cycle. In Kentucky, Democrats in the state House of Representatives made it their top priority and Alison Lundergan Grimes made it a central part of her campaign for U.S. Senate against Republican Mitch McConnell.

Grimes lost to McConnell by 15 percentage points, and House Democrats failed to get their proposal past the Republican-controlled state Senate. But the issue found favour in Louisville, where Democrats control the Metro Council.

The ordinance will almost certainly be challenged in court. Louisville’s business community, which includes Yum Brands Inc., the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants, has opposed the wage. They argued the council does not have the legal authority to tell businesses how much they should pay their employees.

The increase will happen over three years. After that, it will increase with the cost of inflation.

Exempt employees include farm workers, waiters and others who work for tips, and employees of small businesses whose average gross sales are less than $95,000 per year.