IOWA CITY, Iowa — Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 199 at the University of Iowa held a demonstration on Tuesday to speak out in favor of a $15 per hour minimum wage as a part of the COVID-19 relief package coming from Washington. Democrats had planned to include the $15 minimum wage in the relief package but were ruled out of order due to parliamentary rules.
“We’re asking that Congress ignore the parliamentarian decision and pass $15 an hour minimum wage across the country,” said Katie Biechler of Service Employees International Union Local 199. “Essential workers have been touted as heroes, but they’re not getting the pay that they need.”
The protest was targeted toward U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa, who has already said he doesn’t think it should be included in the COVID-19 measure.
“Non-partisan CBO says $15 minimum wage would cost 1.4 million jobs, far more than would benefit + raise costs in stores/for health care & increase the deficit by $54 billion. Including this harmful policy in COVID-relief bill would devastate same biz/ppl already hurt by pandemic,” Grassley said on Twitter.
The Congressional Budget Office said 17 million people would benefit from the $15 per hour minimum wage. They also note that 1.4 million people could lose their jobs. That point is one the Iowa City union disputes.
“That is a myth that has been used for years to try to scare people out of demanding what we need,” said Biechler. “The reality is we’ve been raising the minimum wage for nearly 100 years now.”
The Service Employees International Union Local 199 also hopes to raise the standard for janitors and other support personnel at the university.