DES MOINES (MCT) — The benefits of increasing Iowa’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage can’t be measured only in dollars and cents, according to 2014 gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Jack Hatch.
The Des Moines Democrat Monday called for increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which is consistent with Democratic legislative plans in Iowa and other states as well as Sen. Tom Harkin’s proposal to raise the federal wage threshold.
“Right now we’re a very low-wage state, consistently ranking among the bottom 10 states for private industry hourly wages,” he said.
Raising the minimum wage will be a key part of Hatch’s strategy for growing the number of working middle-class Iowa families. His 2014 challenge to Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is going to be about “enhancing the middle class, increasing their ability to make more and better choices for their families.”
Iowans working for minimum wage don’t enjoy the same choices as middle class families, Hatch said. They wouldn’t have to choose between food and medicine, for example.
“A low minimum wage makes those choices predisposed,” Hatch said. “Families make bad choices because they don’t have enough income.”
However, Hatch said, middle class is more than just an income. Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing Iowa has ninth highest percentage of people working multiple jobs, Hatch said that some low-wage workers are middle class because they work 60 to 80 hours a week.
That, he said, takes them away from the “essence of the middle class.”
Middle class means “a family that is interacting with one another,” Hatch said. “There is a relationship between the middle class and their church, between the middle class and their government, the middle class and their schools.
Although Democrats at the state and federal level appear to be united on increasing the minimum wage, Hatch isn’t confident the fight can be won in 2014 with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans the House.
“Without strong gubernatorial leadership this is not going to make it on the agenda,” he said. “It’s not going to happen until we have a Democratic governor who will lead on it.”
In addition to a higher minimum wage, Hatch threw his support behind a pro-labor agenda that includes changes in state law to allow unions to negotiate a fair share agreement to allow them to collect a fee for bargaining wages and benefits for non-union employees. That effort failed in 2007 when Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office.
He wants to require contractors to pay prevailing wages on all public construction projects and for the use of project labor agreements on public projects, including at regents’ universities, with a total construction cost exceeding $25 million.
Hatch would hire more occupational safety inspectors, make unemployment compensation more worker-friendly and allow workers injured on the job to choose their own medical providers.
He wants to force employers who offer inadequate or no health insurance to pay into a new state fund to help cover costs they inflict on state-funded health care programs like Medicaid. He’ll also fight proposals to lower the cost of state services through outsourcing to private companies that typically offer lower wages and benefits than state government.
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