But the City of Solon become 1st City in US History to lower the minimum wage
After failures by the US Congress and Iowa State legislature to raise the minimum wage, Johnson County Supervisors voted unanimously to raise minimum wage for its residents last Wednesday September 10th. The increase would be phased in over three stages until it reaches $10.10 per hour by 2017.
But before the first wage increase ($8.20/hour) could take effect on November 1st, the City Council members of Solon in Johnson County voted unanimously to lower the wage in city limits back down to $7.25.
According to Johnson County resident Paul Iverson who testified before the Solon city council, in taking this action, Solon has become the first city in US history that has decided to lower its minimum wage.
With high demand for housing from the student population, and a large population of professionals and academics, Johnson County is one of the most expensive places to live in Iowa according to Iowa Policy Project. It is also one of the fastest growing in the state.
Yet several of Iowa City schools have extraordinarily high percent enrollment of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The minimum wage increase was targeted to help that underclass, many of whom are immigrants and refugees, and many of whom are working two jobs or are victims of wage theft.
Iowa's Home Rule law clearly was examined by the Solon city council whose attorney already had a local ordinance drafted and presented to the council for a first reading on September 12th, only two days after Johnson County passed the increase. Dozens of people testified against lowering the wage at the second reading at the September 16th meeting– both from the community and surrounding areas. Fewer than five testified in favor of it, most of them restaurant owners who provided anecdotal evidence, but no hard facts about how this would hurt business.
Normally, such an ordinance would have three readings before a vote, but perhaps because Solon did not want to give the community enough time to organize, they motioned to waive this requirement and combine it into two readings. After public testimony ended, without any discussion by the city council members, they voted 5-0 to lower the wage.
I wondered how representative these council members were of the community, so I looked up the results from the last election in 2013 when three of the five members ran uncontested. Of the 1,396 registered voters in Solon, 63 people voted altogether, with the three uncontested council members getting 43, 49 and 50 votes.
The City of Swisher is next in line to consider opting-out of the wage increase. It’s been reported this will be discussed at their October 12 meeting.