Pre-empting local minimum wage ordinances gets public hearing

DES MOINES — Business interests are urging Republicans to nullify local ordinances that have raised the minimum wage in Johnson, Linn, Polk and Wapello Counties. Critics say the move will reduce pay for as many as 85-thousand minimum wage workers in those four counties.

Mike Holms is manager of Jethro’s, a locally-owned chain with seven restaurants in the Des Moines metro. He testified last night at a public hearing at the statehouse.

“Right now it’s like the wild west,” Holmes said. “Every one of Iowa’s 99 counties can set their own wage standards and in that county every city can set it’s own wage standard as well.”

Darin Beck of Cedar Falls owns a dozen Iowa restaurants and bars — in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. He told legislators varying wage rates have been “devasting” for the hospitality industry.

“It creates an incredibly unfair playing field and confuses the prospective employees expectations in damaging ways,” Beck said. “It’s hard enough to compete in today’s market with your competitors, but imagine competing with yourself when you have businesses in multiple districts with differing wage requirements.”

Patrick Stall, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member from Des Moines, says Republicans will make life harder for minimum wage workers in places where the LOCAL base wage is going up.

“We are in a class war and right now the rich and their scumbag Republican friends are winning,” Stall said. “We need to remember this day and stand up and back fight tomorrow.”

Josh Myatt, an Iowa State University student from Burlington, is president of the Young Democratic Socialists on campus.

“Republicans claim to support small government,” Myatt said. “How is taking the ability of raising the minimum wage to a living wage from counties and cities supporting small government?”

The bill also prohibits cities from passing ordinances to ban plastic grocery bags — something Dubuque officials have considered. Reverend Wendy Abrahamson, the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Grinnell, urged legislators to let cities adopt “higher and better” rules on wages and the environment.

“People of faith actually fast from using things like plastic bags or drinking straws because of the detrimental effect these and other materials have on God’s creation,” Abrahamson said.

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