Polk County Teens: Equal Pay for Equal Work

Oct 4, 2016

The Polk County Board of Supervisors gave approval to a second reading of a proposed hike in the minimum wage.

Polk County Supervisor John Mauro talks with teen workers, who are unhappy with a minimum wage ordinance nearing enactment.
Credit Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

It is drawing resistance because of certain provisions.

The Board is attempting to raise the minimum wage in Polk County to $8.75 an hour by April of next year, which would climb to $10.75 at the start of 2019.

Teenage workers younger than 18, however, would receive 85 percent of the minimum wage.

Sixteen-year old Alexa Rodriguez says the lower wage for young people is not fair because she does the same work her older colleagues do.

“When there’s a spill in the aisle, or when it comes to providing good customer service," she says. "I’m able to do all of those things.”

Des Moines resident Ashley Parker says many of these young people work to support themselves like she did at 15.

“I was working many nights and every single weekend, because my mom, who struggled with addiction, wasn’t working," she says. "And my father refused to help me.”

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association’s Michelle Hurd supports the plan so employers can afford to hire teens

“It is in the best interest of youth in our state to provide young people with first time job experiences,” she says.

Supervisor Chairman Tom Hockensmith says the proposal is the result of a task force’s recommendations and plenty of compromise.

“Is it everything we wanted, absolutely not," he says. "Is it a good start, we think it is.”

The Polk County Administration Building.
Credit Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The third and final reading of the proposed Polk County wage ordinance is next week.