BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – An effort to push the minimum wage in Lee County came back in front of supervisors on Tuesday.
At the regular Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting, Lee County resident Robert Cale asked the board to assist him in contacting representatives to sit on the committee to review the possibility of the county setting a minimum wage.
Cale said movement on the issue had slowed with all the other focuses of the county such as the courthouse referendum, budgets etc., but he wanted to get a meeting time set for the committee to discuss a recommendation to the board.
Cale said each supervisor was asked to come up with two representatives to serve on a committee to look into the possibility of increasing the wage.
“If each supervisor could get a hold of their reps that we had and set up a time. We’re not going to be able to get everyone together at one time, but we’re planning on having more than one meeting,” Cale said. “We need to get something going. A lot of the workers in Lee County have been waiting a long time for this decision. A lot of workers have been working for years without a raise.” Cale said.
Supervisor Matt Pflug said it would be in the committee’s best interest to keep the group relatively small.
“I think the goal when we’re looking at doing this was 9 to 10 folks. The problem you have in getting too big is that getting a consensus can be problematic,” Pflug said. “But our commitment was that we were going to get together and we’re going to follow through with that. We will get moving on it.”
Supervisor Don Hunold suggested at next week’s meeting pulling the contact list for people to sit on the board together that way Cale and the board would have a complete list of numbers and contact emails for people to sit on the committee.
Folluo said he would be happy to set up communication with the group if he had the names and numbers of everyone.
Cale asked what the board was looking for from the committee and Pflug said that was what the committee was being put together for, to make a recommendation.
“I think the group needs to have that dialogue,” he said. “When you move around like down in Keokuk where I’m from, there’s not a lot of people paying $7.25. I can name a few, but obviously, as we’ve talked about, that’s not a livable wage. Let’s get the group together first and then the group could come back and report to the board.”
Board chairman Rick Larkin recommended the group make sure they bring city officials in Lee County along with the discussion because in some Iowa counties where a minimum wage increase was passed, cities voted to go in different directions.
“They passed this in Wapello County, but the cities all voted against it so it’s just the unincorporated areas that are doing it,” Larkin said. “It looks bad when we pass it and all the cities opt out of it. I just think we should bring the cities along with the discussion.”
“If the cities of Wapello County turn their backs on the people and opt out, and that’s something you can’t just opt out of, it’s something that has be voted on and passed three times… then they have to answer to those voters,” Cale said.
In addition to Wapello County, Johnson, Linn and Polk also bumped minimum wages in 2016. However some cities in each county have gone different directions. In Johnson County, Solon, Shueyville, Oxford and Swisher declined to follow the county and Tiffin capped their minimum wage at $9/hour.
The four counties used “home rule authority” as authorization to raise the wage at the county level, but state officials may question the legality of that. However direction from the current legislature is more toward creating a single statewide minimum and preempting any local moves to increase the wage.
Gov. Terry Branstad has indicated he would consider a minimum wage increase but only if it’s a statewide wage.