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Linn County Passes Ordinance Increasing Minimum Wage


Jean Oxley Public Services Center in Cedar Rapids -- photo by Lauren Shotwell
Jean Oxley Public Services Center in Cedar Rapids — photo by Lauren Shotwell

Linn County became the second Iowa county to pass a minimum wage ordinance Monday morning. The first wage increase will take effect in January.

The ordinance passed 4-1, with Supervisor John Harris the sole opposed vote.

Under the ordinance, the minimum hourly wage in Linn County will increase by one dollar each year for the next three years, rising to $8.25 at the beginning of 2017, then to $9.25 in 2018 and $10.25 in 2019. Cities within the county have the option to opt out of the ordinance.

Iowa’s minimum wage has remained the same, $7.25 per hour, since 2008, but a number of counties have recently taken action to raise the minimum wage, including Johnson County, which passed an ordinance back in September.

During the meeting, Harris said that he had already voiced his opinion on the ordinance, so any further comment would just be repeating what had already been said. At the meeting for the second reading, held Tuesday, Sept. 7, Harris said he had received many comments from the public about the ordinance and that the majority of his constituents do not support it.

Harris added, during that previous meeting, that he supported the initial one-dollar increase, which he said adjusted for inflation since the last minimum wage adjustment eight years ago. However, he voiced concern about the additional hikes in 2018 and 2019. He also said he had hoped to see a youth wage, a slightly lower wage for workers under 18 years old.

Supervisor Brent Oleson said during Monday’s meeting that he had actually had to go remove a sign from the yard of a long-time supporter who was upset about the minimum wage ordinance.

“But I feel good about this vote,” he said.

Oleson said the Iowa Legislature ultimately needs to act to pass an updated statewide minimum wage, and he thought county ordinances would pressure the state to act.

Board of Supervisors Chair Ben Rogers said the ordinance was a step towards giving those with low wages greater independence and a better quality of life. He said he didn’t believe it would have a huge impact on local businesses, but acknowledged that the measure has some opponents.

“This issue cuts both ways, and that is, I hope, the kind of conversation that people want in a representative democracy,” he said. “In a lot of ways, this has demonstrated the best that government can do for its people when it really does listen.”

In Polk County, a task force put forward a recommendation in August to increase the county’s minimum wage to $10.75 by 2019. The recommendation included a youth wage — paying only 85 percent of the minimum wage to workers under 18 years old. The Polk County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider the ordinance in October.

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Wapello County is also considering a minimum wage increase — bumping up the minimum wage by 95 cents each January until 2019, when it will reach $10.10 per hour. A third reading of that ordinance is scheduled for Sept. 13.

In September of last year, Johnson County became the first Iowa county to pass a minimum wage increase. The first hike took place on Nov. 1 last year, increasing the minimum hourly wage to $8.20. An additional increase went into effect on May 1, bumping it up to $9.15, and a final increase will take place Jan. 1, when the minimum wage will reach $10.10 per hour.


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