Minimum Wage Workers in Many Other States get a Raise, but not in Wisconsin
Low-wage workers in Ohio, Nebraska, and 18 other states got a raise at the beginning of the year when those states increased their minimum wages. Minimum-wage workers in Wisconsin got no such bump in their paychecks.
Workers in 9 of the 20 states are benefitting from a welcome pay boost because – unlike Wisconsin – those states have laws that annually increase the minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living. Workers in the remaining 11 states got a raise because their elected officials took specific action to increase the minimum wage. There are now 29 states (and D.C.) that have minimum wages above the federal minimum.
In Wisconsin, the minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour (the floor set by federal law), a level at which it has been stuck for six years. Without an adjustment for inflation, Wisconsin’s minimum wage loses a little bit of its purchasing power every year, and low-wage workers fall further behind economically. In order to earn the same amount in 2015 as they did in 2009, minimum wage workers would need to earn around $8.10 an hour.
Wisconsin lawmakers have resisted raising the minimum wage, even though such a move could benefit more than half a million workers and give a boost to businesses: Raising Wisconsin’s minimum wage to $10.10 would give a raise to 587,000 workers, or more than one fifth of Wisconsin’s workforce. The parents of 234,000 Wisconsin children would have an easier time putting food on the table and making ends meet. The extra money in workers’ pockets would increase economic activity and create 3,800 new jobs.
Wisconsin voters whole-heartedly support raising the minimum wage. In the November election, 13 Wisconsin counties and cities had the minimum wage issue on the ballot, and in those communities 67% of voters approved raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Support for raising Wisconsin’s minimum wage transcended political boundaries, and the ballot measure passed with flying colors even in solidly red parts of the state.
Increasing the minimum wage is a win-win for workers, families, and Wisconsin’s economy. Lawmakers in other states are taking action to raise the minimum wage, and lawmakers in Wisconsin should as well.
Read more about the recent minimum wage increases and the debate about the economic effects in this January 2nd blog post by Jared Bernstein in his On the Economy blog.
Tamarine Cornelius and Jon Peacock