Fact Check: Joni Ernst's minimum wage stance

Red Oak state senator seeking U.S. House seat

Joni Ernst, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaks at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids in this O
Joni Ernst, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaks at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids in this Oct. 8, 2013, photo. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)


“I've never called for the abolishment of it (federal minimum wage). Never.”

Source of claim

A television ad called “You Can't Trust Joni Ernst on the Minimum Wage” paid for by the Iowa Democratic Party.


The new Iowa Democratic Party ad targets the federal minimum wage stance of Joni Ernst, a state senator from Red Oak and the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. She faces Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, of Waterloo.

The ad display's Ernst's quote saying she never called for the abolishment of the federal minimum wage, which came from a June 23 article in U.S. News and World Report. Then it questions whether it's consistent with her previous statements by asking “Really?” and then plays a series of sound bites from Ernst on the minimum wage, The ad concludes, “Joni Ernst; Can't trust her on the federal minimum wage.”

Here's the full context of her quote in the U.S. News article:

“I've always said the minimum wage is a safety net that's in place, so that's fine. I'm saying I don't support a $10.10 minimum wage,” she says. “I never called for the abolishment of it. Never.”

Ernst has been on record multiple times saying she does not support a federal minimum wage, and she has opposed raising it at the state or federal level. She said it's an issue best left to states.

In an Iowa Public Radio interview on June 1, Ernst said, “I do not support a federal minimum wage. I think every state has a different economy, a different cost of living. I don't believe that's the role of the federal government.”

In a Republican primary candidate forum on May 19, Ernst said, “I do believe it is best left up to the state ... . I don't believe the federal government should be involved in setting the minimum wage.”

Ernst echoed the sentiment on Radio Iowa on May 20, and in a May 29 interview on KCCI-TV in Des Moines she said she doesn't believe it is a federal issue.

Still, there is no evidence that Ernst has directly called to abolish it.

On April 24, Ernst said during a forum on Iowa Public Television that she does “think having a minimum wage is a good thing. It's a great safety net.” She said in the same forum she would not raise the minimum wage.

Ernst spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said Ernst misspoke in the IPR interview by not including the word “increase” when she said she doesn't support a federal minimum wage. She said that when Ernst has spoken about the issue, it's been in response to questions about increasing the federal minimum wage so her comments have been in context of an increase rather than the federal minimum wage itself.

Hamel said Ernst has had the consistent position that there should be a baseline federal minimum wage, but that states should be in charge of setting increases.

Dennis Goldford, a political and international relations professor at Drake University, said that Ernst “is clearly saying there shouldn't be a federal minimum wage.”

However, he said there's a fine line between what she thinks and her actions. Ernst is trying to have both sides of the issue, he said.

“She walks up to the line,” Goldford said. “She opposes it, yeah, but is she going to do anything about it?

“What we don't have here is a case for her leading the charge, but that doesn't mean she won't participate in someone else's proposal to abolish it.”


The ad might mislead some viewers to think Ernst is campaigning to abolish the federal minimum wage. In our review, we couldn't find examples in which Ernst specifically said that.

But the ad does show her position stated in U.S. News and World Report departs from what she has said in the past.

As Goldford said, people listening to Ernst would assume she doesn't believe in a federal minimum wage, and if in a position of power she might support a proposal to get rid of it.

Even if, as Ernst's spokeswoman said, Ernst has misspoken or spoken in context of opposing the wage increase, she has said in her own words on multiple occasions that she doesn't agree with a federal minimum wage.

We rate this ad as mostly true.


This Fact Checker was researched and reported by B.A. Morelli, (319) 339-3177;

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