Protesters gathered outside the McDonald’s restaurant in St. Paul, Minn. on 4/14/16.
Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue (CC-By-2.0)

Iowa’s Democratic U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer, and Dave Loebsack voted for H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act, that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon by a 231 to 199 vote.

Iowa’s lone Republican U.S. Representative Steve King voted against the measure.

This bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase the federal minimum wage for regular employees over a 7-year period, for tipped employees, and for newly hired employees who are less than 20 years old.

The bill gradually raises the federal minimum wage for regular employees to $15 per hour over seven years after the bill is enacted. There has not been a federal minimum wage increase in over a decade. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Some states and municipalities have approved higher minimum wages.

Once passed the minimum wage would be raised to $8.40 per hour and increase by $1.10 per hour each year over the next six years until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour. The bill then gives the Secretary of Labor the authority to raise it beyond that based on “the annual percentage increase, if any, in the median hourly wage of all employees as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

“Having grown up in poverty, I know what it is like to sit around the kitchen table and worry about how the bills are going to get paid. Anyone working 40 hours or more per week should not be living in poverty, which is the case for millions of people across the country who are stuck at the current minimum wage. It has been over a decade since the minimum wage has been increased, the longest period in U.S. History, and in order to maintain a basic standard of living, it is imperative that the wage is increased. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to create good paying jobs and grow the economy here at home,” Loebsack, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a released statement.

Democrats say the bill will increase the purchasing power of minimum wage workers by $2,300 annually.

“I’m never going to vote against increasing wages for hardworking Iowans. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised in our state since 2009– and many Iowans are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. It’s important that we take this step to gradually raise wages and that we do it responsibly, working with small businesses to ensure that this is done the right way for Iowa. Iowans just want to work hard, pay their bills, and have enough saved to be able to send their kids to baseball or softball practice or take their grandkids out for dinner at the end of the week. Unfortunately, that’s become harder and harder in our state as Republicans have pushed policies that have gone after our working families. When counties did raise their minimum wage in Iowa, the Republican-controlled state legislature voted to reverse those local changes,” Finkenauer said in a released statement.

The bill will also phase out the separate minimum wage for tipped-workers and for new employees under 20-years-of-age.

Research has shown an increase in the minimum wage will likely come with unintended negative consequences.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated if a $15 per hour minimum wage is implemented, 1.3 million Americans would become jobless.

In 2015, a survey conducted by the Employment Policies Institute found that 72 percent of U.S. economists opposed a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour.

The majority of the surveyed economists believed a $15.00 per hour minimum wage will have negative effects on youth employment levels (83 percent), adult employment levels (52 percent), and the number of jobs available (76 percent).

When economists were asked what effect a $15.00 per hour minimum wage will have on the skill level of entry-level positions, 8 out of 10 economists said they believe employers will hire entry-level positions with greater skills.

Nearly 7 out of 10 economists (67 percent) believe a $15 minimum wage would make it harder for small business with less than 50 employees to stay in business.

A 2016 study conducted by the University of Washington showed that Seattle’s minimum wage increase harmed those who were low-wage earners before the increase took effect. During the period of increasing minimum wage, including the second wage increase to $13 an hour, the number of hours worked by low-wage workers fell by 3.5 million per quarter. They found that there were thousands of jobs lost along with a reduction in hours worked by those who retained their jobs.

This legislation is likely dead on arrival when it hits the U.S. Senate.

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