116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Nearly four months after a new law rolled back statewide minimum wage increases, Corridor advocacy groups have not slowed their efforts to promote the living wage in Johnson and Linn counties.
In 2015, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that eventually raised the minimum wage to $10.10 starting on January 1, 2017.
Linn County supervisors passed a similar ordinance in September that included three annual increases in the minimum wage, starting with the first increase to $8.25 on Jan. 1 of this year.
The bill former Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law in late March, however, effectively barred cities and counties from setting minimum wages higher than the statewide mandated $7.25.
Despite this, both The Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids' Living Wage Linn County, groups that support an increased wage, are continuing efforts to encourage businesses to pay a wage higher than the state minimum wage.
Volunteers gathered at the Center for Worker Justice in June to debrief after a series of 'door knocking” outings at Iowa City businesses, asking owners to pledge to pay their employees a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.
Mazahir Salih, community organizer for the Center for Worker Justice, said officials hope to encourage owners to pay their current employees, as well as any future employee, the increased rate.
'It's very important to make sure they're doing it for the future employee as well,” Salih said. 'That's our goal.”
More than 100 employers in the Iowa City area have signed a pledge to pay $10.10 - or $6.06 for tipped employees - according to the Center's website.
Living Wage Linn County also has been discussing the issue with area businesses since March.
Devin Mehaffey, co-founder of the organization, said up to three dozen businesses have signed the organization's pledge so far.
'We're really trying to focus on bars and restaurants, especially, just because that's where lower wage workers exist in the minimum wage scale as far as folks who are earning anything less than that $7.25,” Mehaffey said.
The conversation has continued with area business owners as well, including Lesley Triplett who owns the Dumpling Darling in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
Triplett, who opened her Iowa City location about three months ago, said it's always been a priority to give her 30 employees a starting rate of $11 an hour.
'I just think that no matter what you do, you should be able to go to a good job, work hard and that should be enough if you're working full time to support yourself,” said Triplett. 'That's something I knew I wanted to do.”
Jake Kendall, co-owner and operator of five Culver's restaurants in Linn and Black Hawk counties, said the brief mandate in Linn County had affect on the starting wage he gave to some of his employees.
'The only adjustment we did make at the time was with the 14- and 15-year-olds we hired,” Kendall said. 'At the time, they were under $8.25. With the Linn County mandate, we of course started hiring 14- and 15-year-olds at higher than $8.25 and we kept that, just because for us it made sense and I'm not a big fan of rolling back somebody's wage just because of the law.”
However, Kendall also noted his full-time employees have received at least a $10 hourly rate 'for quite some time.”
'With us, we always want to be the employer of choice and to do that, one of the key things is to pay a higher wage. So we were higher than the $8.25 mandate at the time,” Kendall said.
Mehaffey, as well as those at the Center for Worker Justice, are confident in their causes.
'I wouldn't say most businesses are content with $7.25, but I think most businesses recognize the need to increase the wage and I think most workers feel that need,” Mehaffey said. 'I think a lot of folks are going to be supporting and continuing to support a higher wage, regardless whether or not they pledged to uphold the Linn County minimum wage with us.”
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