A belated Christmas gift is coming today to hundreds of thousands of low-wage Americans in 10 states across the country: A higher minimum wage.
But don’t expect to see the same in Iowa, where the state’s minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour isn’t going to budge. Last raised by state lawmakers in 2007, from $5.15 to $6.20, and again in 2008 to $7.25, Iowa’s rate has matched the federal rate ever since the federal rate became $7.25 in 2009.
The lack of an increase isn’t for lack of trying by Democratic legislators in Washington, D.C. Just ask Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who introduced a bill in July to raise the rate to $9.80 by 2014, and then establish annual increases. Harkin chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which plays a central role in such legislation.
In a divided Washington, Harkin’s bill has gone nowhere so far, although the new year will bring elevated Democratic numbers to both the House and Senate.
For now, Harkin isn’t giving up the fight, calling it a “modest, common-sense proposal” that would grant an automatic raise to 28 million American workers. He cites polls showing popular support for the idea and says it is overdue, arguing that the current minimum wage has 30 percent less buying power than it did at its peak of effectiveness in 1968.
Do you think Iowa lawmakers should reconsider an increase in the state’s minimum wage?