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Preserving higher minimum wage a top priority this week for many in Johnson County


Iowa Policy Project: Facts & Alternatives

Old Brick Church — Friday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.

Supporters of a higher minimum wage for all workers, including those under age 18, attend a Tiffin City Council Meeting in 2016. -- photo by Adam Burke
Supporters of a higher minimum wage for all workers, including those under age 18, attend a Tiffin City Council Meeting in 2016. — photo by Adam Burke

Protecting a higher minimum wage is taking center stage in Johnson County this week, with the Board of Supervisors set to pass a resolution carrying that message, and a legislative forum Friday evening that will outline “action steps” for citizens.

The board is also considering whether to sue the State Legislature over House Study Bill 92, introduced yesterday, Feb. 8, which among other things would prevent local governments like Johnson County from setting their own minimum wage, said Andy Johnson, executive director of the Board of Supervisors.

“The lawsuit has been discussed with our attorneys, but legislation hasn’t been passed at the state level, so we don’t know yet what it will look like,” Johnson said. “It’s still very early in the process.”

Johnson said the board was likely to pass a pro-minimum wage resolution Thursday, having already discussed it at an earlier work session. Johnson County’s minimum wage ordinance, passed in 2015, called for increases every year, until the county’s minimum wage reached $10.15 this January. It will rise with the consumer price index thereafter.

The advocacy group Iowa Policy Project will host a gathering at Iowa City’s Old Brick, 26 E. Market St., at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, to talk about strategies for preserving governments’ power over their minimum wage. The group will also encourage residents to reach out to legislators from both parties regarding not only the minimum wage pre-emption bill, but also proposed laws that would bar “sanctuary cities” for immigrants.

The event is free; interested parties are encouraged to RSVP to mikeowen@iowapolicyproject.org.

Johnson County Supervisors listen to public comment in 2015 before unanimously voting to pass a higher minimum wage. -- Photo by Adam Burke
Johnson County Supervisors listen to public comment in 2015 before unanimously voting to pass a higher minimum wage. — Photo by Adam Burke

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) will host an action table at the Friday event. Its senior organizer, Evan Burger, said his group rattled a legislative committee by having 100 people show up to speak out against the proposed anti-sanctuary bill. “This is the only way we’re going to stop these bad bills,” he said, noting the strong Republican domination in both state houses. “It’s going to take disruptions and making people uncomfortable.”

Johnson County was the first county in Iowa to pass an ordinance increasing the minimum wage locally from $7.25, and is one of only four counties statewide with a wage higher than the state minimum. Linn County narrowly voted in December to stick with an earlier plan to start increasing its minimum wage in January instead of pushing it back to July. In Linn, the wage will increase by $1 a year until it reaches $10.25 in 2019. The other two counties that have voted for a higher minimum wage are Polk and Wapello.

Black Hawk County decided in late January to explore raising its minimum wage, too.


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