A Living Wage
Though worker productivity has nearly doubled since 1968, the real value of the minimum wage has fallen 25 percent.
Traditionally state and federal governments set the minimum wage, and ideally those levels of government should do so. However, if neither state nor federal government act to ensure the minimum wage is a livable wage, then counties have an obligation to act.
The average worker in America has seen little improvement in his/her wages over the past 40 years. While worker productivity and the cost of living have risen steadily, wages have barely kept pace with inflation.
The Iowa Policy Project has provided the following data on the issue:
- About 18,400 workers in Linn County would benefit directly from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
- Of those who would benefit from the higher wage in Linn County, 54 percent are women and 52 percent work full-time.
- In Linn County, of those affected, 23 percent are age 40 or older, and only 20 percent are under age twenty.
A higher minimum wage puts money in the pockets of low-wage workers and boosts spending in the local economy, which in turn leads to additional local retail and service jobs.
Studies of moderate increases in the minimum wage found no discernible effect on the availability of jobs. In fact, many business-owners appreciate the boost in local spending and reduced rates of employee turnover. Many business-owners report they save funds and increase productivity when they do not have to hire new employees constantly.
Of the cities and counties that have adopted a local minimum wage, many have set the wage between $10 and $15 dollars per hour, often indexed to inflation. Linn County has convened a group of private business owners, organized labor leaders, representatives from the public sector and other stakeholders to study the impacts of raising the minimum wage in our county.
I support an increase in the minimum wage, and I believe we should listen to all community viewpoints and the findings of the Linn County study group before we put forth specific proposals.