Heeding Scott Walker, Iowa GOP crushes workers’ rights, then lowers minimum wage

Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

On Feb. 13, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spoke via Skype with Republican legislators in Iowa and urged them to crush collective bargaining rights for public employees, just as Walker did back in 2011. Don’t worry about the protests, he said, according to a report by Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times in Madison.

Well, they took his advice. Iowa Republicans rolled back collective bargaining rights for public employees just a week later.

And on March 30, they shoved it to workers again, this time actually lowering the minimum wage in four counties that had raised it. Now no county can have a minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

That’s going to take a bite out of workers’ wages in Johnson County, where the minimum wage was already set at $10.10 an hour and was indexed to inflation. (Johnson County is where Iowa City is located.)

In Linn County, home of Cedar Rapids, the minimum wage just went up to $8.25 on Jan. 1 of this year, and was set to go up to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2018, and then again to $10.25 on Jan. 1, 2019.

In Wapello County, home of Ottumwa, the minimum wage went up to $8.20 on Jan. 1 of this year, and was set to go up to $9.15 on Jan.1, 2018, and then to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2019.

In Lee County, the supervisors recently voted to raise the minimum to $8.20.

And in Polk County, home of Des Moines, the minimum wage was set to go up to $8.75 on April 1.

This year, for the first time in 19 years, Iowa has a Republican majority in both houses of the legislature.

Walker has advised such newly empowered Republicans to move fast with any big changes: “Do it early,” he said, according to Opoien.

Iowa Republicans also took a page from Walker’s predecessor in Wisconsin, former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, who signed legislation in 2005 banning local governments from having minimum wages higher than the one set by the state.