Milwaukee County voters to face referendum on minimum-wage hike

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The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors has voted for a resolution on the state's minimum wage.

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors on June 26 voted to place a referendum on the November ballot asking voters whether the state minimum wage should be raised to $10.10.

Supervisor Khalif Rainey proposed the resolution that brought the vote.

The board voted 13-4 to place the “Raise Wisconsin” minimum wage referendum on the ballot, which also will contain the governor’s race, as well as other offices. Along with Rainey, Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, Supervisor Gerry Broderick, and Supervisor Willie Johnson, Jr. were co-sponsors of the resolution.

The vote followed a short press conference at which the supervisors, Raise Wisconsin activists, low-wage workers and others spoke in support of raising the minimum wage.

Devonte Yates, a national leader in the movement of fast food workers and a Milwaukee County resident, said after the vote, “No one can survive on $7.25, and believe me, I have tried.  For over a year, workers like me have been taking to the streets, fighting to win higher wages.  Now, we are going to bring this movement to the ballot box in November.”

Wisconsin’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum. On a 40 hour a week schedule, that means $15,080 per year, or $290 per week. That’s below the federal poverty line for a single parent with a child.

Twenty-two other states have higher minimum wage levels. Massachusetts passed legislation last week setting its state minimum wage to $11 per hour, while Connecticut and Maryland set $10.10 minimum wage levels in the past month. In the Midwest, Michigan and Minnesota already have set higher minimum wage levels and Illinois is expected to follow.

Raise Wisconsin campaign director Peter Rickman, who lives in Milwaukee County, said, “It’s time to raise the wage so that we can raise our economy and raise Wisconsin.  Working people in our state need a raise, and we will win the higher wages necessary to address staggering income inequality, to increase economic opportunity, and to improve living standards.”

Jennifer Epps-Addison, executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, added, “For too long, our communities have needed more economic opportunity and security.  Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 is a critical first step to transform the low-wage jobs of today into family-supporting jobs that can build a new middle class for Milwaukee’s future.”

Earlier in the week, Raise Wisconsin activists submitted signatures to qualify similar referenda in the cities of Neenah and Menasha. Previously, Eau Claire and Kenosha counties placed similar referenda on the November ballot.

The Dane County Board was expected to vote on a resolution later on June 26.