Minimum Wage Moves Gain Momentum in Midwest


Move over California. One city and two counties in the Midwest established local wage or benefit requirements in September, and at least three more jurisdictions may follow suit.

In Iowa, Linn and Wapello counties became the second and third jurisdictions to establish minimum wages higher than the state’s. Both counties scheduled wage increases that are to take effect Jan. 1.

Linn and Wapello join Johnson County, Iowa, which established a minimum wage in 2015. The three counties follow different wage-increase schedules, but all conform to minimum wage exemptions Iowa grants employers with less than $300,000 in gross income and employees who have worked for an employer for fewer than 90 days.

St. Paul, Minn., followed Minneapolis in establishing paid sick-leave requirements in September. Employers in St. Paul are to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked starting July 1, 2017, for large employers and Jan. 1, 2018, for small employers.

The Minneapolis requirements, established in May and in effect since July, follow the same accrual rate and limits as St. Paul’s, but that is where similarities end.

Both cities grant new employers leeway to come into compliance, but for different amounts of time. In Minneapolis new employers may provide unpaid sick time instead of paid time for the first year of business. In St. Paul’s version, the time period was shortened to six months.

Additionally, the Minneapolis requirements apply to employers with at least six employees. Employers with fewer than six employees may provide unpaid sick leave instead. The St. Paul measure does not have a similar exemption, though the requirements take effect at a later date for small employers.

On the Horizon

Over the next year, more cities and counties in the Midwest likely are to consider local wage measures. In Minneapolis, a charter amendment that would have created a citywide minimum wage was blocked from appearing on November’s ballot. However, the city council ordered a minimum wage ordinance to be drafted for consideration by April 2017.

The Iowa counties of Lee and Polk may follow Johnson, Linn and Wapello counties in establishing countywide minimum wages. The Lee County Board of Supervisors appointed two supervisors this month to a study group to look into a countywide minimum wage. Polk County is to schedule a first reading of a minimum wage ordinance at the board of supervisor’s meeting Sept. 20.

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