Iowa lawmakers OK standard minimum wage

DES MOINES (AP) — The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature on Monday approved a bill that would prohibit local governments from raising minimum hourly wages above the state level, effectively cutting some existing worker wages — an unusual result compared to other so-called pre-emption laws around the country.
The Senate voted 29-21 along party lines in favor of the measure, which passed this month in the House. The bill now heads to GOP Gov. Terry Branstad, who has indicated he supports it.
The legislation would ban cities and counties from adopting or enforcing ordinances that raise the minimum hourly wage above the state and federal level of $7.25. It’s been a top priority for Republicans this session amid a growing number of Iowa counties increasing their wages.
More than 20 states have laws that pre-empt local governments from raising wages, according to the advocacy group National Employment Law Project. But Iowa’s reversal of pay raises makes it unusual. Kentucky appears to be the only other state to retroactively decrease minimum wages, according to NELP and the National League of Cities.
The legislation in Kentucky involved two cities. Iowa’s bill would override wage increases approved recently in Polk, Johnson, Linn and Wapello counties that will top out at different rates, from $10.10 to $10.75 an hour. Lee County is considering an increase.
Polk County, the most populated in the state, was scheduled to have its first wage increase on Saturday. The three other counties had already started their scheduled raises.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement used data from the Iowa Policy Project to estimate that 100,000 workers in Iowa would be affected by the legislation. Emily Schott, a community organizer for Iowa CCI, likened the measure for workers to having “the rug completely pulled out from under them,” especially those who were within days of a pay increase.
“It’s a big business measure,” she said. “It’s something that actively makes Iowans poorer and does not represent working people at all.”