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Johnson County Continues Push for Higher Minimum Wage

johnson county building
Katarina Sostaric

Johnson County is continuing to advocate for a higher minimum wage despite the Iowa Legislature’s reversal of local wage increases earlier this year.

Two economists involved with the county's Minimum Wage Advisory Committee told the board of supervisors Thursday the county has not seen adverse impacts from raising its minimum wage to $10.10.

"Overall, it’s hard to see a negative impact of the minimum wage ordinance on measures of employment and unemployment," says Iowa Policy Project Research Director Peter Fisher.

Fisher says low-wage workers have benefited from the wage increase, especially those in the leisure and hospitality sector. Results from the retail sector were not as clear. 

More than 150 businesses in Johnson County pledged to keep their wages at $10.10, even though they could legally drop wages to the federal and state minimum of $7.25. 

"The goal is to raise the earnings of low wage workers; the concerns are increased unemployment, injury to business and so forth," says University of Iowa economics professor John Solow. "And the goal seems to have been met for some brief period of time, and there’s very little indication that there was any damage done." 

Board of Supervisors Chairperson Janelle Rettig says the county will likely recommend a slight wage increase to local businesses next year. The increase would be tied to the Consumer Price Index for the Midwest region, and is expected to be around 20 cents. 

The additional wage increase will be unenforceable because of state law, but Rettig says she hopes that law changes in the future.