UI to raise minimum wage

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UI to raise minimum wage

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By Gage Miskimen

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The University of Iowa will implement the new minimum wage.

The first phase of the Johnson County’s wage ordinance went into effect this month, raising the minimum wage to $8.20 an hour, higher than the state minimum wage, $7.25. After the decision this summer, it was initially unclear whether the UI — a state agency — had to comply.

In an email, spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said the university recognizes the increase in the market rate in Johnson County and will adopt the rate of $8.20 an hour to pay 665 student employees and 36 temporary employees.

“The University of Iowa implemented a minimum wage hike on Nov. 1 in order to remain competitive as we recruit and retain student employees,” Beck said.

Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry said there hasn’t been much pushback from larger city governments.

Carberry said some cities, such as Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty, are waiting to see the effects because it’s early and there is still the possibility of a lawsuit now that the ordinance has been put into effect.

“People ask why people haven’t sued yet,” Carberry said. “[It’s] because you have to have standing and there has to be damage done. The minimum wage had to take effect before anyone could sue.”

Some of the smaller towns in the county, including Swisher, Tiffin, and Solon, passed ordinances opting out of the county rule and following the state’s $7.25, which is also the federal minimum.

Carberry said it would be ideal for the entire county to be on the same page and have the same wages.

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“It’s going to be confusing for employees and employers to have different minimum wages throughout the county,” he said. “Some businesses have multiple locations … It will be more complicated for them to do their payroll.”

Carberry said it would also be nice if people got paid more due to the expenses of living in Johnson County.

“We have the highest cost of living and the highest poverty rate in the state of Iowa, and our people are hurting from that,” he said. “We have massive problems with hunger and housing in the county, and it’s directly related to low wages.”

The soon-to-be Johnson County Minimum Wage Advisory Committee will comprise members with different areas of experience and knowledge on local economic conditions. The supervisors are hoping to have the committee set by the first of next year.

Iowa City City Councilor Kingsley Botchway said the council supports the ordinance.

Botchway said there has been a mix of reactions from businesses on the city choosing to follow the county’s ordinance.

“Some businesses have been very supportive,” he said. “Others have really been asking questions on why they weren’t involved in the process, and I question that as well and want everyone to have a voice.”

Botchway said he thinks the ordinance will have a positive effect.

“Other cities in the country have had positive outcomes,” he said. “I think it will put more money into our local economy.”

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