Task force passes an ordinance for $10.75/hr by 2019 with a youth wage in spite of public dissent and clear disagreement by the task force itself

Over two dozen Iowa CCI members packed the room Thursday afternoon as the Polk County Minimum Wage Task Force decided on a final recommendation to the Polk County Board of Supervisors. In spite of strong vocal opposition, the Task Force voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.75/hr by 2019 with a cost of living adjustment; and to set a youth wage at 85% of the minimum wage.

Not only does recommending a separate youth wage rate not in line with the state law create a potential legal risk and put the whole ordinance at risk, it’s a blatant disregard for the hard working youth of Polk County.

“I believe that this idea promotes discrimination based on age; discrimination that is unconstitutional and as I understand, unethical. I believe that this proposal simply allows employers to take advantage of young people who will take any job that pays. I believe that this so called “youth wage” is in fact hurting the youth of Polk County,” said Iowa CCI member, Waukee High School student, and Polk County resident Michael Adato in a statement to the task force read by CCI member John Noble.

A youth wage exemption does not exist in federal law, state law, or Johnson County’s minimum wage ordinance, and including a youth wage in the Polk County ordinance is simply the Supervisors kowtowing to big business like the grocery industry.

Adato’s statement continued, “It sets a dangerous precedent of lower pay for teens-a huge market because of our expendable income…Oppose the “youth wage,” and instead, actually support our youth.”

Not only is the youth wage exemption disappointing, but the recommendation also does not go nearly far enough to help the working people of the county. Research by both the Iowa Policy Project and the United Way show that a true living wage is at least $15/hr in Polk County. With a living wage, workers in Polk County can turn around and spend that money in our local economy.

The task force’s recommendation of $10.75/hr is not near enough for Polk County residents to live, and with such a paltry increase Polk County is missing out on all of the economic benefits raising the wage could bring to our community.

Emily Schott, Worker Justice Organizer at Iowa CCI said, “The Supervisors are bowing down to big business in two ways: creating a youth wage for large corporations like the grocery industry so they can continue to hire hardworking youth at terrible wages, and creating an increase of $10.75/hr that is far less than what the people of this county need now, let alone by 2019 when it will go into full effect.”

The task force’s decision is a recommendation – the Supervisors have the ability to change any part of the recommendation. Polk County needs $15/hr, and Iowa CCI will continue to pressure the Polk County Board of Supervisors to raise the wage to a living wage without discriminatory exemptions like a youth wage.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics and polluters. CCI has fought to put people first for 40 years. Visit www.iowacci.org.

 

LIKE and TWEET to Fight for $15!

 

Polk County Needs a $15/hr Minimum Wage_MG_0665

By Cherie Mortice, president of the Iowa CCI Board of Directors
Appeared in the Sunday Des Moines Register on 7/31/16

Polk County needs a $15/hour minimum wage. The married mom with four kids who’s worked at a Des Moines fast food restaurant for over fifteen years making $10.50/hour needs it. The Valley High teenager who works over twenty hours a week to pay rent for him and his single working mother needs it. The single East Side grandmother who lost her job at 63 and had to take the first job she could find at $7.45/hour needs it.

The folks who need $15/hour serve our food, provide daycare for our kids, care for our elderly loved ones, clean our offices, respond to our emergencies, and deliver our mail. They make our communities run, and they can’t make ends meet.

That grandmother needs $13.44/hour just to make ends meet, and that’s without any savings for retirement, as if she can simply work until she dies. That teenager’s mother needs to make $22.82/hour to put a roof over her son’s head and allow him to focus on school. That mom and her husband each need to make $18.16/hour to support three children, so imagine what the number is with four.

These people in Polk County are everywhere and their stories are real. What is not real are the myths about raising the wage spread by corporate interests and business associations. Over seventy years of data about wage increases in the US prove that rumors of unemployment or businesses closing from higher wages aren’t the doomsday predictions they’re preached to be.

There are also plenty of myths spread about the hardworking folks who work low wage jobs. That they are lazy, undeserving, only teenagers making extra spending money, and my personal favorite – that the minimum wage they earn “was never meant to be a living wage.” That they just need to go to school, work harder, find a better job.

The truth? Raising the minimum wage, even a significant wage raise phased in over time, doesn’t cause job loss. That’s not speculation, that’s a fact. We know jobs aren’t lost because of a study of 288 neighboring counties on state lines where one state raised the wage and employment stayed the same. We know because over 600 economists wrote a letter to President Obama explaining that fact. We know because places like Seattle, Los Angeles, and our very own Johnson County raised the wage and employment levels are still the same.

The truth about low wage workers?  People work really hard – often times more than one job – to support families and survive. The job they work should pay them a living wage. As FDR said when he signed legislation establishing our nation’s first minimum wage, “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country…by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level – I mean the wages of decent living.”

More truth – People with more money in their pockets spend it. They pay rent, buy food, pay for childcare, buy gas, clothes, and school supplies. Businesses hire more people because there is increased demand for their products. The local economy grows, and businesses benefit even after lobbying against a wage increase.

Polk County can reap the benefits of raising the wage – but only if the Board of Supervisors works for the welfare of the people they represent. Now is the time for bold action that is good for our communities, good for our workers, and good for our businesses. Polk County Supervisors, raise the wage to $15/hour.

Cherie Mortice is a Des Moines resident and president of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement board of directors.  She can be reached at cmortice@gmail.com

Last month’s minimum wage task force meeting made it clear that a few members of the force do not want to consider $15/hour.

That’s why we need you at the task force meeting this Thursday! 

Here is what you need to know:

When: Thursday, July 14 at 2:30 pm | we are carpooling from the office (2001 Forest Ave) at 2:00 pm

Where: Polk County Admin Building, 111 Court Avenue, Des Moines — the meeting is in Room 120

What: The Polk County minimum wage task force is meeting and we need you present for a strong show of people power for $15/hour!

RSVP here

We need you there Thursday, and we need you to push the Board of Supervisors to make the right decision by flooding their inboxes. 

Tell the Supervisors Iowans need a living wage today! Take action here.

 

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Over 75 community members joined Iowa CCI last Tuesday, June 28th in Des Moines to learn the truth about raising the minimum wage and to discuss the upcoming ordinance for Polk County.

There are dozens of myths around the minimum wage but little to no research to support these arguments. So why do we consistently hear these narratives from minimum wage opponents?

To help combat these myths that frequently surround the minimum wage CCI invited Peter Fisher, an expert in public finance and lead researcher for the Iowa Policy Project (IPP), and Paul Iversen, a former labor attorney and current Labor Educator for the University of Iowa’s Labor Center, to speak to Polk County residents and set the record straight.

Myth #1: We need a raise, but not $15/hr – this is Iowa, not California!

According to a recent poll conducted nationwide by Hart Research Associates, 71% of adults in the US support an increase in the minimum wage to $11/hr by 2020, 75% support an increase to $12.50, and 63% support an increase to $15/hr.

While the support for a substantial increase is overwhelming, here in Iowa we are constantly being told that these numbers are not realistic for our state. Opponents are quick to point out that places like Des Moines or Iowa City are not comparable to cities like New York or Seattle – two cities that have recently adopted a $15/hr minimum wage. What opponents fail to recognize is what it actually costs to live in Iowa.

Peter Fisher broke down the Iowa Policy Project’s 2016 Cost of Living Study and specifically addressed what working individuals and families need to earn in order to make ends meet in Polk County. IPP’s basic budget analysis provides specific information on costs of housing/utilities, food, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and household expenses such as clothing. It is a no-frills budget and does not factor in student loans, discretionary spending, or emergency savings.

Fisher explained that a single individual in Polk County would need at least $13.44/hr to simply make ends meet; a single parent with one child would need at least $22.62/hr; and a family of four with both parents working full time would need at least $17/hr.

Myth #2: It’s just teenagers and college kids working these low-wage jobs.

It is a common misconception that low-wage jobs are entry-level jobs for teenagers to have spending money. At one point in time, a few decades ago, this statement was somewhat true.

However, the working environment has shifted immensely. Manufacturing jobs that were once prevalent – and paid a family-supporting wage – have now been moved overseas where labor laws are less stringent. And the ones that have remained stateside do not offer competitive wages comparable to their value 30+ years ago. Now, these jobs have been replaced by the booming service and retail industries, and these industries are expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

Fisher spent time focusing on who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage from $12/hr-$15/hr in Polk County. Based on IPP’s findings, we can assume that the percentages of beneficiaries also reflects the age range for low-wage workers. For example, adults between the ages of 20-39 would see the greatest benefit with over 50% seeing an increase in their income, while adults 40 and over came in at a close second with 40% or more seeing an increase in their income. Teenagers were a distant third as beneficiaries for a minimum wage increase.

The reality is that its adults and parents working these jobs to support themselves and their families.

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**Image from Iowa Policy Project’s 2016 Cost of Living Study**

Myth 3: Raising the minimum wage will create job loss and force businesses to close.

When President Franklin D Roosevelt enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act and debuted the concept of a minimum wage in 1938, business leaders and opponents claimed that this concept was ludicrous. They felt that during a time of economic despair that setting regulations for pay and workers’ rights would create tough times for business.

Throughout history, opponents of the minimum wage continued to claim these same points but provided no concrete data to support those arguments with the exception of one report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This report states that large increases in the minimum wage would lead to high rates of unemployment.

Opponents of a substantial minimum wage increase often refer to the CBO report as a means to pass a lower raise such as $8.25/hr or $9/hr.

Both Paul Iversen and Peter Fisher explained in detail the various reasons why this report is not accurate. The main reason being that the research examined a change in the minimum wage but kept all other aspects of the economy constant. Iversen explained that this is a flaw in research because an increase of income would cause an increase in purchasing and production. Simply put – when people have more money in their pockets, more money gets filtered back into our economy. When this is not taken into account, research like the CBO report would show that job loss is a certainty.

Iversen continued by providing various examples of studies demonstrating the positive economic impacts that raising the minimum wage has had. Among those was an astonishing report from the University of California Berkley. The study examined employment rates of nearly 300 pairs of counties from 1990-2006. The pairs of counties consisted of one county with the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr and a neighboring county with a higher minimum wage.

There was no evidence in any of the 288 pairs of counties studied that showed there was a higher rate of unemployment in the higher wage counties compared to the lower wage counties. In fact, the employment rates were nearly identical. Iversen stated it was important to note the sample size of this research. In many studies it’s difficult to have such a large sample size.

A study such as this makes it clear that raising the minimum wage does not cause significant job loss. It actually spurs business growth due to the increase of demand. Businesses expand their customer base when more people have higher incomes. They also increase productivity and sales due to more people spending more money.

By the end of the meeting, folks were ready to mobilize and fight for $15/hr in Polk County.

It’s going to take all of us – working together – to get a living wage across Iowa. Join us at our upcoming events to ensure that the Polk County Supervisors hear why we need $15/hr.

Join us for the upcoming Fight for $15 events! Click here.

 

 

Thanks to over 30 #fightfor15 fighters, $15/hour is still being considered by the Polk County Minimum Wage Task Force. 

On Wednesday, the Task Force met to discuss how high Polk County should raise the minimum wage. It became clear that a few members of the task force came with an agenda to take $15/hr off the table.

We need a minimum wage increase that is meaningful and substantive, one that will make a difference to the tens of thousands of folks in Polk County who are struggling to get by. That number is $15 an hour. 

Thank you to all of you who stood strong and demanded the Polk County Board of Supervisors do the right thing. Read “This is why I stood up for $15” by CCI member Ross Grooters.

It’s clear this fight is not over, and we need you with us every step of the way.

Don’t miss the next chance to strengthen this movement: Myth Busting the Minimum Wage! 

When: Tuesday, June 28 | 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Where: First Christian Church, 2500 University Ave., Des Moines, IA

What: Join CCI and our allies for a meeting to discuss the upcoming Polk County ordinance with Paul Iversen, a labor educator with the University of Iowa Labor Center, and Peter Fisher, lead researcher at the Iowa Policy Project and national expert on public finance!

RSVP here!

We must continue to push decision-makers to be bold on this critical issue.

Thank you for all that you do!

 

 

In Polk County a family of 4 requires a minimum of two people earning $17 per hour to meet a basic-needs budget without assistance.* This assumes both people are working 40 hours per week. For a single parent with one child the basic needs wage rises to $22.33/hr. With this in mind CCI engaged in a movement to raise the wage. When the Polk County Supervisors, hearing our call, decided to take up the issue of raising the minimum wage, I was optimistic. As a union member I have advocacy for my wages and benefits. Most people in Polk County and the state of Iowa are not represented by a union. That’s why it is an important step for the County Supervisors to raise the wage—they represent the people of Polk County.

At Iowa CCI, we have been fighting for $15 an hour. I believe a $15 minimum wage should be the bare minimum. For workers it is a compromise.

This week the county supervisors held a mid-day meeting with the intention of hearing public input (for 15 minutes) in order to set a wage amount and implementation schedule. As the meeting opened, Supervisor Tom Hockensmith offered excuses for why $15/hr was “unreasonable and unrealistic.” The supervisors on the task force were determined to take $15/hr off the table even before public comment period, and we didn’t let them.

Reasons offered by the board and the business leaders focused on negative arguments in an effort to deny a wage increase of $15/hr. While claiming to represent all concerned parties, numbers like 9 or 10 dollars an hour were offered as acceptable compromises.

With such an agenda set in advance and clearly intended to dismiss $15/hr, I felt the need to change the conversation. After asking to be recognized by Chairman Hockensmith I pointed out the task force clearly didn’t represent the people in Polk County as it claims. Not only was it lacking representation from low wage workers, I didn’t see any people of color at the table. I then pointed out how much it actually takes to raise a family here in Polk county—not New York, not Chicago, not LA, but here in Iowa; many people working  full time, if hit by an emergency expense such as a car repair or medical bill, don’t have the means to pay. The question for me, as I point out to the board, was not why we needed $15/hr, but why the board wasn’t pointing out how people need more to survive.

Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of raising the wage: decreased poverty, increased spending in our local economy, less people delinquent on their bills, and more people better able to contribute to a healthy, safe community, the board brought an agenda to silence the people who most need a wage increase. In doing so, they demonstrated a lack of courage to champion the people they are elected to serve.

Given the needs of people in Polk County I could not remain silent as our government leaders continued to allow advocates for a pro-business anti-people agenda to dictate the terms by which people in our community work and live by. It’s time we all exercise our voices and demand more from our elected officials. That means making sure they provide for the welfare of all people, not just those with access and money. It means even if our civic leaders will not, I continue to fight for $15 and I will not be silent.

Ross Grooters
Member, Iowa CCI

*Iowa Policy Project, “The Case for a Polk County Minimum Wage”