Standing up for working Iowans
I am committed to fighting for Iowa's working families and strengthening our middle class.
In the Iowa Senate, I’ve helped approve many measures that would do just that, but the Republican-controlled House has refused to consider them. These include:
• Increasing the wages of Iowa's lowest-paid workers. According to the Iowa Policy Project, 181,000 Iowans would benefit from an increase to the minimum wage. Of them, 72 percent are over the age of 20, 59 percent are women, 20 percent have children, and on average, they earn 44 percent of their family’s total income. Most states have raised their minimum wage above the federal $7.25, including five states surrounding Iowa. By following suit, Iowa families will have bigger paychecks that will boost the economy when they spend at local businesses.
• Accommodating pregnant workers. A woman shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy. Many women want and need to work throughout pregnancy to provide for their families. Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant women; it’s illegal to fire a worker, cut her pay or deny health benefits because she is pregnant.
However, current law doesn’t require employers to accommodate pregnant employees. Some pregnant women need minor, temporary adjustments to their job duties to continue working. Most reasonable accommodations are simple and low-cost or no-cost, such as allowing an employee to sit sometimes rather than stand, to avoid heavy lifting or to take more frequent bathroom breaks.
• Stopping wage theft. We need laws that make it clear you must pay your workers, and make it easier and safer for workers to stand up for their rights. Most Iowans aren’t at risk of being cheated by their employer, but low-wage workers often are, and they're the ones with the most to lose. Examples of wage theft include an employer failing to pay a worker for the hours of work performed, not giving tips to servers or any practice that denies people their agreed-upon wage.
We’re funding an additional wage theft investigator to help tackle the workload, but it won’t solve the whole problem. Iowa’s Division of Labor was responsible for 651 wage claims filed in 2014 that resulted in $242,252 paid to claimants. That barely makes a dent in the $600 million a year stolen from Iowa workers.
Next year, I hope we can do more for hard-working Iowans.
– Sen. Rich Taylor represents Henry and Lee counties and portions of Washington and Jefferson counties.