ANKENY, Iowa - It wasn't the $15 an hour they wanted, but Central Iowans calling for a higher minimum wage felt a slight sense of victory last fall when the Polk County Board of Supervisors agreed to raise wages over the course of three years. Now, the city of Ankeny is looking to opt-out of that decision.
"The overall opinion of the council is very similar - we all think that this is not a local, or a county issue," said Ankeny Mayor Gary Lorenz. "At best, it should be a federal issue, but at minimum, it should be a state issue."
The wage hike would take effect on April 1, sending minimum wage up from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 an hour. Ultimately, it would peak at $10.75 an hour in 2019. But cities within the county can choose to opt-out of the move, and it's already happening in Bondurant, where the city council is on its second reading of a proposal to opt-out. The Ankeny City Council followed suit with its first reading of a similar proposal Monday night.
"Not surprised," said Emily Schott, an organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement - a major group calling for wage increases. "You know Ankeny is generally a more conservative community - the city council certainly is - and so, we weren't really surprised this was something they'd be interested in."
Schott says her organization has many members living in Ankeny, and she suspects they'll be ready to put up a fight.
"Going to be clear in voicing our opposition, there's a lot of folks in Ankeny that are not pleased with this move, so we're going to demonstrate it," she said.
But Ankeny officials say they're still waiting to see if a state-wide solution comes to fruition; a bill at the Iowa Statehouse would undo all county-level wage increases passed last year, and set the state-wide minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, reflecting the federal minimum wage. The Ankeny City Council has decided to postpone its second and third readings on its opt-out proposal until after March 20, to see if lawmakers move forward with that bill.
"I don't feel, and I believe my council agrees with me, that it's our position as local, elected officials to tell our employers what they should pay their people," Mayor Lorenz said. "I don't think we have any more position to do that, than we have to tell them how many hours to have somebody work."