Mau-mauing the City Council

Sunlit Alcove

Sunlit Alcove at the Solon Station

RURAL JOHNSON COUNTY — A group of advocates from the county seat is expected to arrive in nearby Solon for tonight’s city council meeting at 5:30 p.m.

On the agenda is an ordinance by which the City of Solon would opt out of the county mandate to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by Jan. 1, 2017.

The Center for Worker Justice is leading a direct action to confront the city council about their potential decision.

“Solon Council members need to hear the real facts about raising the minimum wage and how this change strengthens our communities,” Misty Rebik, executive director, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa said in an email last night. “Take action, protect what we’ve won.”

The center is organizing a car pool to the council meeting from their facility in Iowa City.

The story is gaining corporate media attention as Fox News/KGAN2 sent correspondent Matt Hammill to Solon yesterday. Hammill interviewed Sam Lensing, owner, Sam’s Main Street Market. It is noteworthy that Lensing points to the challenge others would have.

“It isn’t the idea of increasing wages for his employees that bothers Sam Lensing,” said the report. “In fact, most of his workers already make above minimum wage. He says the mandated increase would result in many businesses having to raise their prices to customers and pass along the increase in costs and in a small commuter town, where people have choices, that could kill businesses.”

Read and view Hammill’s report here.

The bright shiny object in Solon is the growing number of restaurant start-ups within city limits. By my count, there are nine places to get a bite to eat on Main Street and several more located in strip malls around town. Both city councilors and advocates are aware of this aspect of city life.

County supervisor Janelle Rettig and Iowa City resident David Goodner have suggested using the power of the pocketbook to influence the city council. Rettig made this post on Facebook:

Rettig FB StatementGoodner echoes the pocketbook theme:

GoodnerThe approach taken by advocates for the county minimum wage ordinance is an adventure in mau-mauing the city council. Councilors are unlikely to be influenced by these tactics unless Solon residents step forward to advocate support for the county ordinance. To date, no one has done so.

The face of poverty is invisible in Solon.

Who are Solon’s minimum wage workers? We don’t really know. They may be clients of the food bank at the Methodist Church. They may be taking advantage of government programs like SNAP and Medicaid. They may be neighbors who just don’t want to talk about it.

Unless arguments for and against raising the minimum wage consider actual people who take minimum wage jobs in Solon, they are a useless political construct among people who already have had more than their share of politics. This applies equally to city councilors, business owners who have come forward, and to out of town advocates.

We’ll see what happens tonight.

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