Iowa’s working families are one of our state’s most valuable assets, but somewhere along the way Iowa lost sight of what’s best for working families. It’s time to redirect our attention to family friendly policies that will help them build a better future and move the state forward. Iowa families work hard, but out of date wages and lack of affordable care are forcing many families to make huge sacrifices and difficult decisions. With family budgets stretched thin, the unfortunate solution for most families is to work longer hours, spending less time with their families. Too many politicians are only concerned about taking care of those at the top, and the middle class has fallen behind. We can begin the new year by supporting a legislative agenda that prioritizes family friendly policies including raising the minimum wage and ensuring affordable child care and long term care are accessible to all Iowans.
At the beginning of this year, 14 states increased their minimum wage. Iowa was not one of those states as ours remains just $7.25 an hour. Last session, the Iowa Senate successfully worked across the aisle and passed legislation that would have raised Iowa’s minimum wage for the first time in seven years. Unfortunately, the Republican controlled Iowa House chose not to vote on this legislation which would have increased the wage to $8.75 an hour. This year, Republican lawmakers have an opportunity to step up and start listening to their constituents. According to independent polling conducted in October, 69 percent of Iowans are in favor of raising the wage. This is a bipartisan issue that requires working across the party lines for a common good.
Raising the minimum wage will support workers and businesses alike. Even a modest increase in wages puts more money in the pockets of consumers and ensures a better life and more spending power for working families. It’s been proven that when families are able to provide for themselves, they are more likely to stay in the workforce, are more productive in their jobs, and stay with their job longer. It’s a win-win situation for Iowa families and the state’s economy.
Thousands of Iowa families are also struggling to access affordable child care and long term care for their loved ones. Skyrocketing child care costs are crippling Iowa working families and forcing many to choose between their jobs and caring for their children. That’s a decision no parent should have to make, and Iowans must take the lead by making affordable child care an option for all families, not just the wealthy.
We cannot afford to leave any Iowan behind. Nearly half a million Iowans are over the age of 65, and 70 percent of them require some form of long term care. Among the 20 percent who carry long term care policies, many still wind up having to pay out of pocket and cannot keep up with growing expenses. Premiums have doubled at a rate that folks on a fixed income simply cannot afford. These folks are our veterans, and Iowans with disabilities who depend on long term care to survive. Ensuring care for our elderly, our veterans and those with disabilities should be a no-brainer. We’re Iowans. We take care of one another. It’s our duty to guarantee quality long term care is an option for everyone who needs it.
In order to move forward as a state, we need a renewed commitment to family friendly policies that will increase income and improve the quality of life for thousands of Iowa’s working families. Progressive leaders will be pushing for policy changes in the legislature, and they’ll be joined by Family Friendly Iowa, a statewide coalition dedicated to raising awareness for family friendly policies. If you believe an investment in Iowa families is crucial to our future, visit www.familyfriendlyiowa.org, to get involved and learn more. Strong families lead to strong communities and a growing, prosperous economy that works for everyone.
• Cathy Glasson is president of SEIU Iowa. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org