The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Johnson County Board of Supervisors call for minimum wage increase

The board is urging local businesses to raise their minimum wage to $12.64.
Sara Stumpff
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors sit at a panel during a meeting at the Johnson County Administration Building in Iowa City on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023.

A new minimum wage could be coming to Johnson County.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on March 28 to raise the county’s recommended minimum wage from $12.25 to $12.64 per hour. This increase is largely symbolic in the hopes of setting a standard for more affordable living in the county.

The board annually raises the county’s minimum wage despite former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s bill in 2017 that limits localities from raising minimum wages past the state and federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

The board has raised Johnson County’s minimum wage $5 over the set federal minimum wage over the past seven years. Although this raise can only be a statement of recommendation for local businesses, board members feel strongly about the importance of a higher minimum wage.

Guillermo Morales, the executive director of the supervisors, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that there are many benefits to increasing the minimum wage.

“It encourages socially conscious employers to establish a minimum wage which keeps pace with the CPI. It benefits their workers by enhancing their earnings and thereby the quality of life for them and their families,” Morales said. “The minimum wage is not only a benefit to low-wage workers. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Before the start of the fiscal year on July 1, the board annually looks at collected data from the consumer price index, or CPI, to make a calculated decision to raise the minimum wage based on economic inflation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Midwest’s CPI rose 2.8 percent in the past year due to a 4.3 percent increase in housing costs and a 2.2 percent increase in food costs.

These yearly increases have been approved since September 2015 when the board voted to start phased increases in the minimum wage.

Lisa Green-Douglass, a Johnson County supervisor, said the federal minimum wage is not livable, and she supports raising it.

“We have a lot of businesses, especially in the Iowa City area, that have continued to keep up with the county’s recommended minimum wage, recognizing that this is part of having a livable place,” Green-Douglass said. “But we can’t enforce it if a place of business is not paying that. We have no authority whatsoever.”

Kennedy Donovan, an employee at Yotopia, said she used to work a minimum wage job in high school and believes the minimum wage should be raised.

“I feel like if I was getting paid minimum wage, I feel like we kind of deserve more than that just because we’re doing so much,” Donovan said.

Donovan said she now gets paid $11 in her current position at Yotopia in downtown Iowa City. Even though this is above the federal minimum wage, she still believes it’s important to raise wages. Comparatively, Illinois’ state minimum wage was raised to $14 per hour in January.

Morales wrote in an email to the DI that the rising prices of food, health care, child care, and education are all major contributing factors to the Johnson County community’s struggles.

Morales stated that due to the state government’s control over local governments, the county is not able to make many needed changes to better financially help the community.

Morales wrote that the state has prohibited local governments from not only raising the minimum wage but also instituting protections against high rent increases, redirecting needed money toward public schools, and the ability to grow revenue to pay for local services through taxes.

“Unfortunately, the state government has tied the hands of local governments and continuously thwarts efforts to improve quality of life and support the most vulnerable among us,” Morales wrote. “It appears the state is most interested in protecting and benefiting the wealthiest among us.”

Rod Sullivan, chair of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, said he wishes Republicans in the governor’s office and state legislature would recognize the importance of raising the minimum wage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, raising the minimum wage could cause employers to employ fewer people to avoid paying more money.

Because of this, some businesses believe raising the minimum wage could be harmful to their business.

Sullivan said there was no loss of employment in the community when the minimum wage was raised before the 2017 bill, only positive reactions from local businesses. Sullivan said the biggest change was the ability for low-income citizens to bring home more money.

Green-Douglass believes there is a better way for the state to handle and address the minimum wage problem.

“I would love for our state legislature to address the issue in a non-political way, but what I would like them to do is to address it as ‘how can we help make our state a livable place?’” Green-Douglass said. “How can we make it so that people who are in a low-wage job can still live here and not be in abject poverty?”

Morales wrote that the board will continue to support raising the minimum wage and fight to take back control of their local government.

“I think it is important for the supervisors to continue setting a recommended minimum wage for Johnson County. We know some employers voluntarily implement the recommendation, and this benefits their employees,” Morales wrote. “And when the County regains local control over the local minimum wage, we will be better suited to implement it.”

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About the Contributor
Sara Stumpff
Sara Stumpff, Photojournalist
Sara is a third year UI student who transfered from Kirkwood. She is a "non traditional" student who will hopefully obtain her BFA in Photography and BA in Spanish.