POLK COUNTY, Iowa — A Polk County Supervisors minimum wage task force has finalized its proposal to increase the minimum wage.
After a number of meetings with the public, the group recommended a plan to raise the wage to $8.75 an hour the first year then increase it by one dollar each year until it reaches $10.75. Cities would be able to opt out. The group said that youth workers will be excluded from the proposal, under a youth wage provision that would pay 14- to 17-year-olds 85 percent of the minimum wage.
During public comment, many people condemned the idea of a youth wage.
“In impoverished families, youth often work to help support their families. Wanting to pay the youth less is short-sighted and discriminatory,” said Holly Herbert, from Des Moines. “Those of you who are on the Board of Supervisors make more than $100,000 a year. Why is it acceptable for you to expect the taxpayers to support your salaries when you are unwilling to support a minimum wage that is a living wage?”
“You’re creating a barrier to employment for the actual people that are heads of households that really need this help, against teenagers that should probably just be being paid the same as it is,” said Mike Holms of Jethro’s BBQ. “And let the employer choose whose got the opportunity and experience, based on the position, not put it down to a dollar-and-cents, when it comes to a cashier checking you out at a grocery store.”
Others called on an even higher minimum wage of $15 an hour.
“When we come to labor, it seems like we’re saying, ‘Oh wait a minute, we can’t do anything, because it’s a labor cost.’ We can absorb energy costs, or interest costs, but we can’t absorb labor costs,” said Rick Smith of Des Moines. “I think that’s a huge mistake, and I hope we can get away from this ‘Sky is falling’ rhetoric on labor!”
The Polk County Board of Supervisors will review the task force’s recommendations through a proposed ordinance next month. They can approve it, amend any part of it, or reject it altogether.