Johnson County’s symbolic minimum wage to increase in July

The symbolic wage increase will come into effect July 1.


Megan Conroy

The minimum wage support sign can be seen at Shorts Burger & Shine on Monday, April 8, 2019.

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to increase the county’s recommended minimum wage 13 cents to $10.40 per hour.

The move continues the recommended phased increases in the county’s minimum wage, established by vote in 2015. The ordinance raised the wage in three parts, to $8.20 per hour on Nov. 1, 2015, to $9.15 per hour on May 1, 2016, and to $10.10 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017. The county’s minimum wage became unenforceable after a 2017 state law prevented counties from establishing a minimum wage above the state’s $7.25 an hour.

“Many of our residents in Johnson County have benefited from this increased minimum wage,” said Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass in a press release. “Though the Legislature took away our power to enforce it, we are upholding our promise to the workers of Johnson County.”

The supervisors also created a plan spanning numerous years to increase the base wage for all county employees, which will increase to $15 per hour from $14 per hour on July 1. Supervisor Rod Sullivan said the supervisors decided on the amount after looking at studies that found a person would need to earn just under $14 an hour to live in Johnson County.

“I think most businesses are doing the best they can,” Sullivan said. “I encourage everyone to think about how hard it is to get by on less than $11 an hour — it’s pretty tough.”

In 2008, Iowa’s minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour; the state has not raised it or adjusted for inflation since.

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In March 2017, then-Gov. Terry Branstad signed legislation eliminating the ability of jurisdictions in the state to set minimum wages above the state’s minimum wage. Despite the county minimum wage being rendered unenforceable, some local businesses have adhered to $10.10, some putting stickers in their storefront windows to show support.

“We think the symbolism is still important, and we want people to know we’re still thinking about the issue,” Sullivan said.

City employees are set to see a minimum-wage increase in July as well. In March, the City Council approved the 2020 fiscal budget, which raises the minimum wage earned by the city’s hourly employees to $11.50 per hour, beginning July 1.

Assistant City Manager Ashley Monroe said in an email to The Daily Iowan that tentatively, the current council wishes to see wages increase in steps, working toward $15 by 2021.

Monroe said in an email to The Daily Iowan the cost to do this was estimated in January to be approximately $260,000 for the first year.

“The city is precluded by state law from requiring a minimum wage of others in the community, but many members of our current council have been publicly supportive of the efforts of Johnson County to encourage voluntary minimum-wage changes,” Monroe said in her email.