BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A minimum wage survey was put in play this week from the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce at the request of the Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph.
The survey, which went out via email to area businesses and business people Monday afternoon asked five questions: How many minimum wage employees does your business employ? Do you start your employees at the minimum wage of $7.25? Do you foresee the proposed increase in minimum wage hurting your business? The proposed minimum wage increase could make the following impacts to my business with a list of five options; and If the wage increase passes, in what other ways do you believe it will impact your business?
Randolph said he asked the chamber to put out the survey because he didn’t feel he had enough information for the city to make a good decision.
“Nobody’s ever approached me from the Raise the Wage committee or anywhere else,” Randolph said. “There was a letter in the paper saying some mayors were opposed to it and there was some buy in from business leaders and public officials, but they didn’t say who. What I’m trying to find out is what type of impact there is to the side it effects. I’m all for people making more money, but I also want to know if I’m going to be telling people they need to raise the wages they pay, what is the downside and impact to them.
The minimum wage ordinance is one reading away from being passed by the Lee County Board of Supervisors. The board passed by a 4-1 vote Tuesday the second reading of an ordinance moving the minimum wage to $8.20/hour in the county. Other local governments have the right to opt out of the increase by a majority vote of their respective boards. The final reading will take place Tuesday at Heritage Senior Center in Keokuk with the meeting starting at 1 p.m.
Randolph said he personally had a problem with counties adopting their own wages on several fronts including it could potentially pit cities within a county against each other for labor.
“The last minimum wage increase was in 2009 and we are due. I think it should come from the federal or state. Home rule’s ok because it gives counties and cities autonomy but you get into this and everyone’s doing their own thing.”
A current bill in front of the Iowa Senate, House File 295, is in front of the State Government Committee as of March 13. A subcommittee of that group recommended passage of the bill Monday.
Randolph said he thinks that bill will be passed, but he wants to make sure he has ample consideration if the city has to make a move in the interim.
“I’ve asked a lot of people. It could be a moot point,” Randolph said. “That legislation has passed out of committee and the Republicans have enough votes to pass it, but will they? The prevailing winds say so. So that’s why the Supervisors pushed that date out to May 1.”
When asked if he believed the city would opt out or vote in favor of the minimum wage if it comes to that, Randolph…abstained.
“I’d like to have a little bit more information before I answer that,” he said. “I might have the Chamber update the survey, get that information and then make a decision. I’m pretty comfortable saying that Keokuk is for it. But does that pit Keokuk against Fort Madison? I want people to have a better income, I do, but then you have to look at living wage versus a minimum wage and then you get into that whole discussion.”
He said in the update to the survey he may look at trying to catch the gap of employees between the current minimum wage and the proposed minimum wage to more effectively gauge the number of employees who would stand to be affected.
“Honestly, other than the committee, I haven’t heard a ton either way. A lot of people say they don’t pay the minimum so it doesn’t effect them. But are there are a lot of people in the gap that might be effected. I’m hoping the survey gives me more added facts that helps me make a better decision.”
Several city councilman interviewed previously on the minimum wage issue had basically the same stance. Councilmen Kevin Rink and Rusty Andrews said the issue deserved a lot of thought and shouldn’t be rushed because of the complexities but both agreed the minimum wage is too low.