Republican Iowa Senate nominee Joni Ernst defended the $7.25 minimum wage currently required in Iowa as a “a great starter wage for many high school students, those who are just getting into work experience,” on Tuesday.
Though Ernst, like Virginia Republican Senate nominee Ed Gillespie did earlier this year, argues that that the minimum wage is some sort of training wage for teenagers just learning how to have a job, the reality is far from it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 69 percent of minimum wage earners are not teens.
A large majority of workers who would benefit from a minimum wage hike are adults who work to pay rent, cover hospital bills, and feed families — a tough task on about $15,000 annually. One fifth of all American children have a parent in that group.
Ernst’s comments came as she toured a small business and highlighted the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business, a pro-Republican tax-exempt group. Though the NFIB has mounted an aggressive campaign against any “job-killing” increase in the federal minimum wage, the group’s survey of its own members earlier this year found that they ranked it as a very minimal concern. Indeed the majority of small businesses support an increase in the minimum wage. Such an increase can positively affect businesses as well as employees, by improving efficiency and reducing turnover.
Ernst, who has previously embraced the current $7.25 minimum as “appropriate for Iowa,” does not believe there should be any federal minimum wage. Progress Iowa has estimated that more than 300,000 Iowans would receive a pay raise if the minimum were raised to $10.10, as her Democratic opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley, has proposed — a pay raise for about 10 percent of the state’s population.