Press Release: Polk Co. min wage proposal falls short

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


LIKE and TWEET to Fight for $15!