IOWA CITY — After weeks of discussions, Johnson County officially has a new minimum wage.
Dozens packed the room at Thursday night’s Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting to find out if the board would pass the third and final reading of the ordinance.
Nobody spoke out at the meeting against the minimum wage increase, first proposed in July, but many showed their support.
Cheers filled the room when supervisors held that final vote, and some even personally shook hands with the board, which unanimously voted in favor of the ordinance.
One supervisor said the wage increase, which will happen in three stages over three years, will impact as many as 10,000 Johnson County workers.
The ordinance is slated to take effect on Nov. 1, 2015 with an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.20 per hour. It would go up a second time to $9.15 an hour on May 1, 2016 and a third time on January 1, 2017 to $10.10.
The board said it was unacceptable that so many people in Johnson County live in poverty.
“We have almost 20,000 people who are food insecure — don’t know where their next meal is coming from. County government does a lot of human services, and we are providing more services, frankly, than we can afford to provide. As you look around and you figure out — why are all of these people poor, they seem to be working, we just feel like some of the employers have to step up and pay a little bit higher wage,” said Johnson County supervisor Rod Sullivan.
Even though supervisors held the final vote, cities in Johnson County can opt to pass their own ordinances to avoid the county’s new minimum wage structure.
According to the Solon city administrator, the city council is considering just such an action.
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An agenda of the council’s September 2 meeting lists “discussion on minimum wage ordinance by Johnson County.” Draft minutes from the last council meeting, which have not been posted online, show council members unanimously voiced opposition to the county’s minimum wage ordinance. Local business owners also spoke out against it, saying they couldn’t afford raises for all of their employees while maintaining the same staff levels.
The Solon City Administrator said the council is expected to take up the matter again at its next council meeting, on Sept. 16.