Letter to the Editor: Our Unresponsive State Legislature and the Minimum Wage

Our state Legislature has an agenda that doesn’t match what the Marquette Law School survey has documented that we Wisconsinites want: 72 percent want a nonpartisan redistricting commission to end gerrymandering; 80 percent want background checks for firearms purchasers; 57 percent want to ban assault weapons; 70 percent want Medicaid expansion; 55 percent want to increase public-school funding rather than reduce property taxes; 83 percent want medical marijuana legalized; 57 percent want to increase the minimum wage. 

Every Door County working person and retail-store owner should be pressing Rep. Kitchens to support expanding the minimum wage. It would lessen the desperate burden for many people, many of whom work two and often three jobs to survive and support their families.

The current minimum wage in Wisconsin is $7.25 an hour for most jobs. It was established more than a decade ago, in 2008. Less known is that tipped employees have a minimum wage of just $2.33. If the purchasing power of the minimum wage were today what it was when it was first enacted – that is, if its level had been increased to offset inflation – it would now be $9.19, yet still hardly enough to live on.

Much of the limited increase in wages nationally during the past three or four years has been due to states and municipalities increasing their minimum wages. Twenty-nine states have a minimum-wage law that establishes a higher wage than Wisconsin’s $7.25 per hour. There is a large body of empirical economic analyses establishing that increasing the minimum wage minimally increases unemployment, if at all. See, for example,

Fifteen percent of the Wisconsin labor force – 464,000 people – are paid the minimum wage. Wisconsin needs to raise the minimum wage to provide these workers with a living wage, but we’re not going to get what we need from this Legislature. We need representatives who are more responsive to our values, needs and desires. It’s about our agenda, not theirs.

Allin Walker

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin