An effort to raise the minimum wage in Iowa is gaining momentum, as the 2014 Legislative Session starts up.
A group of Iowans is coming together to push for higher wages.
Iowa’s minimum wage started at $2.85 an hour in 1990. It’s climbed to $7.25 an hour in the 24 years since.
That works out to about $15,000 a year.
“It`s a lot of poverty for us, we don`t have the same life as rich people and we have to live day to day with bills, food, all sorts of expenses,” says Nereida Castro of Des Moines.
Castro and her husband both work minimum wage jobs in the fast food and construction industries.
With five kids, every dollar is spoken for.
“We have to limit many things to give to our kids to only make rent, to cover basic expenses, we have to limit so much,” says Castro.
Iowa’s Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund is leading the charge for change.
“We see a lot of people who are barley scrapping by on $7.25 supporting families,” says Community Organizer Vanessa Marcano.
Marcano and other CCI members spent the day at the statehouse lobbying lawmakers. They want Iowa’s minimum wage increased to $12.00 an hour.
“We want to see action from legislators, we want our communities who are hard working to have a decent life,” says Marcano.
Democratic State Representative Mark Smith agrees the wage need to be increased.
“Our experience in Iowa has shown that raising the minimum wage has little effect on businesses but gives working Iowans hope for a better future,” says Rep. Smith.
Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen isn’t as optimistic. He’s concerned a minimum wage increase will prevent new employers from moving to Iowa, but he’s open to discussion.
“We`re not throwing the conversation out but we want to make sure we go into that with our eye wide open,” says Rep. Paulsen.
Castro says any increase in her wage would be a good start.
“I would be able to live a life where I don`t feel like I’m drowning,” says Castro.
Gov. Branstad has said he won’t rule out raising the minimum wage in the state.
At the federal level, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin has proposed boosting the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.