SIOUX CITY | After the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors nixed the idea of appointing a county-funded task force to study the effects of raising the minimum wage twice, the Morningside College Democrats took it upon themselves to hold a public forum to talk about the importance of the issue in front of a panel.
The forum--dubbed "The Minimum Wage: An Issue Worth Raising"-- was held in the UPS Auditorium on the Morningside campus Thursday.
The panelists-- who supported the idea-- consisted of State Representative Chris Hall, D-Iowa, Sioux City Council Member Rhonda Capron, Woodbury County Supervisor Jackie Smith and Sioux City resident Shiuvaun Reuter.
The panelists started with opening statements on the need for raising the $7.25 minimum wage. And Hall shared a recent study by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project that said in Woodbury County, a married couple with two children with child care expenses would each need to earn at least $13.00 an hour to get by.
"Nobody can survive at $7.25," Capron said. "Even if you work two jobs at $7.25, it's not even 15 bucks an hour. I just don’t see how they can survive."
The almost 30 people in attendance shared their experiences with the wage now, and an opponent in the crowd gave a history of the failures of minimum wage in different countries and said raising the minimum wage goes against basic economic practices.
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But that's why Smith and Capron accepted the invitation.
"I hope to get some input from people that attend and to hear what other people have to say, because I'm not sure what everyone thinks about," Smith, a Democrat, said.
Capron said, "When this whole thing started the county did not even want to review it, and I think that is crazy. We should give the citizens a chance to view their points, and I think we need a panel to hear what their issues are."
In June, Smith raised the issue to the board of supervisors to create an advisory committee to look into whether the county minimum wage should be above the $7.25 per hour state threshold. Board chairman Jeremy Taylor and Supervisor Mark Monson said they were for the forming of a task force, but said it is an issue that should not be looked at with county time and funds. Supervisor Matthew Ung also dissented.
Then in August, a dozen citizens came to a supervisor's meeting advocating for the task force after a United Way study in late June showed 42 percent of Woodbury County families struggle with basic expenses. Again, the supervisors voted against making it an agenda item.
"I think this is the next step," Smith said about holding a forum. "The supervisors encouraged an outside route to go ahead and study it, because they particularly weren't interested... I think it should probably be a state issue, but the state has not done anything and they have not made any moves towards doing anything."
Any movement to bring the issue to a state level has fallen flat in the Republican-controlled House. Smith believes one of the only ways is if the counties start putting pressure on the state by passing local ordinances.
This week, Linn and Wapello counties joined Johnson in ordinances in a countywide raising of the minimum wage. Polk and Lee counties have also taken measures to look at the possibility of raising the $7.25 wage.