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Iowa Democrats in U.S. House vote for $15 minimum wage

Democratic victory largely is symbolic, as Raise the Wage proposal won't see action in Senate

Demonstrators picket in front of the McDonald’s, 1530 First Ave. NE, on May 23 with other McDonald’s workers and union activists. The demonstrators called for union rights and a livable wage. The demonstration was part of a coordinated protest in more than a dozen cities on the day of the fast-food corporation’s annual shareholder meeting. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Demonstrators picket in front of the McDonald’s, 1530 First Ave. NE, on May 23 with other McDonald’s workers and union activists. The demonstrators called for union rights and a livable wage. The demonstration was part of a coordinated protest in more than a dozen cities on the day of the fast-food corporation’s annual shareholder meeting. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa Democratic U.S. House members voted earlier today to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 by 2025.

The Raise the Wage Act, which passed 231 to 199, was amended earlier this week at the urging of moderate Democrats to provide for a six-year phase-in, instead of five years as originally envisioned.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Abby Finkenauer, Dave Loebsack and Cindy Axne voted for the increase, while Republican Rep. Steve King voted “no.”

Legislation not likely to advance in Senate

The legislation is not expected to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not take it up.

That didn’t stop House Democrats from celebrating what they called a major achievement in their fight for U.S. workers.

Supporters rally in Iowa

Iowa has been the scene of Fight for $15 rallies this week as Service Employees International Union and McDonald’s workers demonstrated outside AARP-sponsored forums where 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls spoke about health care and other issues. The demonstrators demanded union rights and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Several candidates joined the rallies. In Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, for example, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet supported the rally.

Rep. Finkenauer says gradual increase is necessary

Finkenauer called the increase necessary because “the minimum wage hasn’t been raised in our state since 2007 — and many Iowans are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet.”

It’s important that the minimum wage is increased gradually “and that we do it responsibly, working with small businesses to ensure that this is done the right way for Iowa,” said Finkenauer, who represents the 1st Congressional District.

The increase would give 131,000 people in the 2nd District a pay raise, said Loebsack, who represents that district.

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“Anyone working 40 hours or more per week should not be living in poverty, which is the case for millions of people across the country who are stuck at the current minimum wage,” Loebsack said. “In order to maintain a basic standard of living, it is imperative that the wage is increased.”

Small businesses oppose Raise the Wage Act

However, Iowa members of the National Federation of Small Business who went to Washington to lobby against the Raise the Wage Act cited Congressional Budget Office data supporting their argument that raising the wage to $15 will eliminate hundreds of thousands of small-business jobs.

Iowa State Director Matt Everson cited the nonpartisan CBO estimate that the Raise the Wage Act would result in 1.3 million workers becoming jobless and total real income falling by $9 billion by 2025.

• Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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