Today, CCI members celebrate as Black Hawk County becomes the 5th Iowa county taking proactive steps forwards in raising the wage across the state.

The Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors voted on January 31st  to establish a task force to look into raising the minimum wage. The measure was approved 4-1, with only Supervisor Linda Laylin voting against creating the task force. With this vote Black Hawk County has the potential to join Johnson, Linn, and Polk Counties in passing a county-wide minimum wage increase.

This vote by the Supervisors comes as some state legislators discuss introducing and passing a minimum wage preemption bill. A preemption bill would strip Iowa counties of local control of the minimum wage in their communities and lower wages in counties that have already passed ordinances back down to the state and federal level of $7.25/hr.

The Black Hawk County Supervisors are acting on the minimum wage issue for the same reason other counties across the state have – lack of initiative by the state legislature and growing poverty in their communities. “The simple fact of the matter is the federal and state governments haven’t acted since 2007, and we have folks living here with stagnant wages. Low wages keep Black Hawk County residents in poverty and out of home ownership, which lowers the property tax revenue for the county,” said Supervisor Schwartz.

Next steps

Each Supervisor will have the opportunity to appoint two members to the task force. A timeline for the task force has not been laid out yet, but some Supervisors on the board encouraged Supervisors to make their appointments within two weeks.

Congratulations to the residents of Black Hawk County on this first step towards a living wage! As the taskforce moves forward on raising the wage, we’ll continue to keep you updated on ways YOU can plug into this fight.

Learn more:

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As the issue of raising the minimum wage spreads from Iowa counties to finally garnering the attention of Governor Branstad, new research shows that single workers in Iowa must be paid $15.10 per hour just to cover basic expenses. Those paying off student debt must be paid $16.74 per hour.

Waiting for the Payoff: How Low Wages and Student Debt Keep Prosperity Out of Reach, a new report from People’s Action Institute calculates living wages, both with and without student debt payments, for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.  The report shows that Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25 represents only 48 percent of the true cost of living for a single person. For families with children, the minimum wage lags even farther behind.

  • Read the full report, titled “Waiting for the Payoff: How Low Wages and Student Debt Keep Prosperity Out of Reachhere.
  • Iowa specific data, with Polk & Story County breakdowns, can be viewed here.

Featured in the report is Iowan Tonja Galvan, who has been actively involved in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Polk County.  Tonja notes that even though she makes what is considered a living wage, her mother and daughter do not, so along with her granddaughter all must live under the same roof just to try and make ends meet.

A living wage would allow families like Tonja’s to cover basic expenses, such as housing and utilities, and save modestly for emergencies.

With wages falling far below the cost of living, many Iowans are working two or three jobs, cutting back on essentials like food, borrowing from predatory lenders, living in vehicles, or taking other drastic measures to get by.

These figures show how modest a $15/hour wage increase proposal is. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr with no exemptions and no pre-emption. We cannot put the interests of big business corporations over everyday people. It’s time to raise the wage for all Iowans.

As we move the Fight for $15 forward to the Statehouse next session, it is crucial that as many people as possible know $15/hr is not just ideal, but a researched back necessity for hundreds of thousands of Iowans.

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We’re getting closer and closer to a living wage. Let’s keep going!

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

The Polk County Board of Supervisors approved a list of 13 appointments to the Minimum Wage Task Force this morning. Among the appointments are representatives of business, the faith community, and organized labor.

Some of these appointments include:

  • Jim Miller, executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation
  • Jessica Dunker, President of the Iowa Restaurant Association
  • Valerie Miller-Coleman, minister at Plymouth Church
  • Ken Sagar, President of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

 

Noticeably absent from the list of appointments were individuals working below a living wage of $15/hr. About 60,000 Iowans in Polk County live at or below the poverty line, and tens of thousands more struggle to make ends meet with wages barely above the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

“This is an encouraging first step, but the glaring absence of low wage workers themselves is disconcerting. CCI members will be at all task force meetings to make sure everyday people like low wage workers are being represented,” said Cherie Mortice, Des Moines East side resident and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Board President. “A living wage of $15/hr is good for our workers, good for our businesses, and good for our communities.”

Iowa CCI is committed to working with stakeholders and decision makers to raise the wage in Polk County to a living wage of $15/hr. Agree? Sign our petition here!

 

The Fight for $15 movement is on fire!

Across the nation, three cities have passed $15/hr legislation, three others are soon-to-follow, and a dozen others are proposing legislation to raise their local minimum wages despite the stagnant federal wage that has sat at $7.25 since 2007.

min wage myths

Low-wage workers have been rising up and fighting for better pay and working conditions since 2012. Their efforts have sparked a revolution which has corporations feeling the heat. These companies and their lobbyists are working to extinguish the movement by pushing out myths intending to scare workers into submission.

We’re here to shed some light on these myths and give you the truth about raising the minimum wage.

 

MYTH: Minimum wage jobs are for teenagers.

Incredibly few low-wage jobs are for teenagers. The average low-wage worker is 35 years old. In fact, 88% of minimum wage earners are over 20 years old, half are over 30, and almost one third are over 40.

 

MYTH: Raising the minimum wage will cause severe job loss.

According to the US Department of Labor, minimum wage increases have had little to no negative effect on employment as shown through studies by credited economists. These studies also demonstrate how wage increases reduce employee turnover, saving companies money on training costs.

 

MYTH: Our economy will suffer and costs of goods will skyrocket.

No, our economy will not suffer. Local wage increases around the US in the past year have improved economic stimulation for local economies. As for inflation, well, that depends on the consumers and the products. First, any inflation caused by a raise in the minimum wage would be small. Second, better wages always amplifies the purchase-power for low-wage workers and rarely affects workers of high incomes. For example, a raise in the minimum wage will affect the price of a burger from McDonald’s (barely) but it will not affect the price of a luxury car.

 

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