Minimum Wage Roundup

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Here is a look at some of this week’s minimum wage stories from around the country. The American Booksellers Association encourages its members to reach out to town, county, or state officials to ensure they have a voice in any minimum wage discussions that take place in their communities.

Iowa: Governor Bars Cities and Counties From Setting Minimum Wages Higher Than State

On March 30, Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law a bill that immediately bars cities and counties from setting minimum wages that are higher than the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage, as reported by the Gazette.

The new law rolls back the higher minimum wages passed in five Iowa counties, including Johnson and Linn. “Different county minimum wages create confusion, especially for cities that are in more than one county,” Branstad said in a statement. “This bill provides uniformity through the state on Iowa’s minimum wage. It does nothing to force businesses to pay employees less than they are currently paying. I want to thank all of those who worked hard to provide local governments and Iowa businesses with predictability.”

The governor did say he was open to a modest increase to the state minimum wage, though Republican leaders in the House and Senate have ruled that out for the current session, the article noted.

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer told the Gazette that the minimum wage topic could be revisited in 2018. “We’ll see where we can build consensus around that issue to bring it forward and take some action on it,” Upmeyer said.

Maine: Legislators Looking to Amend Minimum Wage Law

In Maine, there are a number of proposals that would roll back some parts of a minimum wage law approved by the state’s voters back in November, as reported by the Associated Press. The law calls for the state’s minimum wage to increase from $7.50 per hour to $12 an hour by 2020. Employees that earn tips as part of their wages would reach the $12 minimum wage by 2024.

At present, there are 10 bills scheduled for a public hearing, the article noted, and many of them would allow employees to pay tipped employees below minimum wage. Two bills would let minors and students earn lower than minimum wage, and one bill is against having the minimum wage indexed to inflation.

Maryland: Baltimore Mayor Vetoes Minimum Wage Increase

Late last month, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed a bill that would have increased the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour from $8.75 per hour, according to media reports. The mayor said that raising the minimum wage would have put the city at a competitive disadvantage with Baltimore’s neighboring cities, according to Reuters.

The wage measure, which was approved by the City Council prior to the mayor’s veto, would have gradually increased the minimum wage to $15 by 2022 for businesses with 50 or more employees and by 2026 for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

The veto signals a change of heart for Pugh, whose campaign promises included supporting a $15 per hour minimum wage, the Baltimore Sun noted.  Pugh said she changed her position on the increase in part due to budget problems she encountered after taking office in December. Her administration estimates that the minimum wage bill would have cost the city $116 million over four years, the article reported. And some businesses said they would cope with the increase by increasing prices, laying off workers, or by looking for locations outside of Baltimore.

Pugh said minimum wage supporters should take their efforts to the state level. “We are on target to continue to raise the minimum wage,” Pugh told the Sun, pointing to the state’s previously mandated wage increases to $9.25 an hour in July and to $10.10 in 2018. “The fight for $15 goes out to 2026. ... We will be pushing just as hard as we can as at the state level. We may be past $15 by 2026.”