Solon council votes to keep wages at $7.25

Solon City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to opt out of the first-in-the-midwest minimum wage increase last night. Instead of allowing the lowest paid in their town a moderate raise, the council decided to keep their city’s wage floor at the state minimum, opposing the Johnson County ordinance passed last week that will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017.

Two restaurant owners challenged the council and said that they already had surpassed the county’s pay rate, set to go to $10.10 in 2017, with a $.95 raise to take effect in November, the first of several hikes to gradually raise pay for the lowest paid workers in the area.

Restaurant owner Diego Rivera has paid his workers above $10 per hour since opening last year. -- Photo by Adam Burke
Restaurant owner Diego Rivera has paid his workers above $10 per hour since opening last year. — Photo by Adam Burke

The council listened to dozens of county wage supporters and a few who supported the Solon council’s pay freeze.

Solon resident Kevin Samek said he last was paid a minimum wage over forty years ago and called minimum wage raise an “Iowa City issue.”

“Those jobs were not created to be full-time position and to support a household. They were started for high school kids to get some gas money and those types of things,” he said, “The folks that work in the restaurants and convenience store, they know what the pay was when they took the job.”

Kevin Samek, a Solon resident, warned the Solon council, “This thing is not going to stop at $10.10. It’s going to go to clear up to $17 or $18. Do you really think a server in a restaurant should earn $18 an hour?” -- Photo by Adam Burke
Kevin Samek, a Solon resident, warned the Solon council, “This thing is not going to stop at $10.10. It’s going to go to clear up to $17 or $18. Do you really think a server in a restaurant should earn $18 an hour?” — Photo by Adam Burke

About 50 people crowded into the Solon city council meeting to express their support for the county’s measure. Quad City Federation of Labor President Dino Leone, who traveled from Davenport to speak out about the issue, openly disagreed with Samek.

“The average minimum wage worker is about 35 years old. That is not a child,” Leone said. “At 35, they’re probably trying to raise kids. Why do businesses profit? Is it because of the business owner? Or is it because you got a good work force? It’s because of the workers.” Even the term “minimum wage” was inaccurate he said. “It’s really a poverty wage.”

County Supervisor Mike Carberry said, “People who live in Solon and throughout the county are struggling to survive on $7.25 [an hour]. Raising the wage will put more money into the local economy and will be a win-win situation for both employees and employers.”

Supervisor Rod Sullivan agreed with Carberry, “There are poor people throughout our county. Solon has a food bank; there are kids on free and reduced lunch in the schools. Why deny these folks the opportunity to earn a bit more money?”

He added, “Having some of the city’s poorest residents have a few extra bucks in their pockets would help local businesses.”

Though no Solon City Councilors responded to a request for comment on the issue during the meeting, one councilor has previously expressed support for a state-wide raise. Of the six states that border Iowa, five have bumped the wage floor, only Wisconsin has kept the minimum wage at the federal level of $7.25 per hour.

About 10 percent of all Iowans would benefit from a raise to $10.10. The first minimum wage boost will take effect in November for all of Johnson County workers, except those in Solon.

Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.

A blog post by Mike Owen, the executive director of the Iowa Policy Project, debunks many of the Solon councilors claims about who earns minimum wage and what effect it would have on the local economy.

The Iowa Policy Project released a study in advance of the county’s ordinance that stated that many workers who make above the minimum would also benefit because their wages would also rise to keep up with the increase.

Others commentators take the county to task for not being aggressive enough in the wage raise. In an opinion piece in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, one writer believes the county didn’t go far enough to combat income inequality. After January 2017, the county wage will be set in accord with the consumer price index (CPI).

Swisher City Council is also considering the move to keep wages low in their town and will vote on the issue at their Oct. 12 meeting.


  1. “Minimum wage workers tend to be young. Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up nearly half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less. Among employed teenagers (ages 16 to 19) paid by the hour, about 15 percent earned the minimum wage or less, compared with about 3 percent of workers age 25 and older. The percentage of hourly paid workers earning the prevailing federal minimum wage or less declined from 4.3 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014. This remains well below the figure of 13.4 percent in 1979, when data were first collected on a regular basis.”

    I recognize the Bureau of Labor Statistics data provided does not include hourly workers who reside in the 19 states who have higher state minimum wages than the federal level. But it is the macro data available currently.

    I tried finding the median (not mean) age of minimum wage workers but my Googling skills appear to be lacking. I am looking for median rather than mean because I believe the distribution is non-normal (fast food worker compared to Walmart Greeter ~ young compared to older adult).

    I want people to thrive but I also want people to recognize that good intentions do not guarantee desirable outcomes. Arguing that raising the minimum will increase employment is only possible if every other factor driving employment is held constant, something that simply is not possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.


Scattergood Friends Middle School Meet & Greet

Come and visit us at the Iowa City Holiday Farmers Market and the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center on Saturday, November 16.

Learn More
Event Details

Iowa City Farmers Market
November 16
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Robert A. Lee Rec Center

Little Village
2019 Give Guide

Get to know some of the nonprofits helping to make the CRANDIC a better place to live.