Soyer: Iowa minimum wage increase overdue


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Democratic senators are planning on introducing bills this session of the Iowa Legislature that would increase the minimum wage in Iowa from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. However, they will likely face opposition from Republican senators, along with Gov. Terry Branstad, which is unfortunate, because a raise in the minimum wage is something Iowans need.

Many people have agreed that $14,500, the average annual income of someone receiving minimum wage in Iowa, is not sufficient to live on. This figure is also below the most recent official poverty guideline, which is an annual income of $18,498. Some people have argued that making a living is not what minimum wage is for. But the truth of the matter is there are not enough high-paying jobs for everyone in the state, and so some people are forced to work jobs that only pay minimum wage.

I cannot personally comment on whether $7.25 is enough to make a living. I do, however, have some experience working a minimum wage job, as I’m sure the majority of us have. I work two tutoring jobs, one through Tutor Iowa that I set my own wages for, and the other through Trio Student Support Services that I am paid minimum wage for. Through Tutor Iowa, the average hourly wage for undergraduate tutors is $11, which is what I charge. While this is quite a bit above the minimum wage, I think it is fair. When I am working through Trio, however, I am doing the exact same thing but am paid far less.

I didn’t really think about this until recently, when I realized that all of the states surrounding Iowa, except for Wisconsin, have higher minimum wages than Iowa. For example, Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25, Missouri’s is $7.50, South Dakota’s is $8.50, Minnesota’s is $8, and Nebraska’s is $8 as well. On top of this, 29 states have minimum wages higher than $7.25. This means that other people doing the exact same job that I am doing in any of these states have to be paid at a higher rate.

For me, this is not that big of a deal, because I am not trying to support myself fully through this job. However, for many people in Iowa, this is a reality. According to the Iowa Policy Project, a nonprofit responsible for researching and analyzing state policy, nearly three-fourths of Iowa’s single working parents earn less than a wage that can support a family. The organization also says more than 300,000 people in Iowa would see an increase in their pay if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, was quoted as saying during the campaign debates that the way to combat people living in poverty is by “growing our economy and making sure that we have good-paying jobs to go out to.” This seems like a good thing to me, but in the meantime, it is completely unnecessary for the Iowans working full-time minimum wage jobs to make such little money.

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