WATERLOO — Black Hawk County leaders are taking a stand in support of a higher minimum wage and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve resolutions supporting the minimum wage increase and committing to abide by the goals of the Paris climate accord among countries working to reduce global warming.
The mostly symbolic actions by the five Democratic supervisors follow a decision by the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature this year to freeze the current $7.25-per-hour minimum wage and President Donald Trump’s June 1 announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the 195-nation Paris agreement.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary that we keep advocating for raising the minimum wage,” said Supervisor Chris Schwartz, who earlier this year was spearheading a committee to study the creation of a higher local minimum wage.
But legislators and Gov. Terry Branstad rolled back local minimum wages adopted in five other counties and pre-empted other counties from raising the minimum wage above the state level.
“It’s been over 10 years since we’ve had an increase in the minimum wage and it keeps people stuck in this poverty wage,” Schwartz said. “It keeps them from becoming property owners; it keeps them from becoming property tax payers; and really kind of locks them into a vicious cycle where they have a hard time having a better life for their children and a better life for their future as well.”
Several residents and union representatives spoke in favor of the county resolution while acknowledging the supervisors don’t have the ability to change the minimum wage here.
“I know you don’t control the Legislature,” said John Padget. “But I think it’s important that we all speak up and say that it’s important to us that our citizens here are able to have a decent life and have children that are successful.
“I my work I see a lot of people that are really struggling to try to get by, a lot of single parents,” he added. “I think that by raising the minimum wage we could help a lot of people in that way.”
Jerry Hageman, of the Black Hawk Union Council, also supported the effort.
“This is a chance to truly at least say Black Hawk County believes in some local control,” he said.
The supervisors also do not control whether the U.S. exits the international coalition of countries taking steps to reduce global warming, an agreement President Trump has called unfair to the U.S. and bad for the economy.
But board members said they will continue to advocate for local measures in the spirit of that accord.
“We continue to strive to reduce our energy usage here in Black Hawk County,” said Chairman Frank Magsamen. “I think Black Hawk County, certainly over the last 10 or 11 years, has been aggressive in reducing our energy costs by the replacement of boiler systems, lighting systems, becoming more energy efficient.”
Supervisor Linda Laylin added, “It’s just a reinforcement of our commitment going forward.”
Schwartz noted the county several years ago approved tax incentives to attract wind energy turbines, although none have yet been constructed here.