In an appalling move to keep low-wage workers locked in poverty, the Iowa legislature this week gave final approval to a bill that reverses local minimum wage increases already approved in several counties and bans cities and counties from setting any wage and benefit standards. It is the first time that a state has nullified local minimum wage ordinances that had already taken effect and forced jurisdictions to lower minimum wage rates that had previously been raised.
On a vote of 29-21, Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted unanimously for the bill, which passed the House earlier. After signing it today, Governor Terry Branstad will forever be known as the governor who robbed tens of thousands of Iowa’s lowest-paid workers of their pay raises.
Immediately, minimum wages for 29,000 workers in Iowa’s Johnson and Linn counties, who have received raises thanks to higher local minimums enacted in the last two years, will be reduced to the poverty-level federal minimum of $7.25 from $10.10 and $8.25 respectively. The Wapello County minimum wage, now $8.20, will also be cut back to $7.25. Another 36,000 low-wage workers in Polk County, the state’s most populous, will be denied the raises they were scheduled to receive starting April 1, when the local minimum is set to rise from $7.25 to $8.75 per hour. And this week, Lee County became the fifth county in Iowa to approve a higher minimum wage. Its first raise, to $8.20 starting May 1, will be reset to $7.25 as well. All told, more than 85,000 Iowans will be robbed of the raises they were to see over the next two years.