Tamarine Cornelius
Wisconsin Budget

19 States Just Raised the Minimum Wage

But not Wisconsin where minimum is $7.25, versus $10 to $12 in many states.

By , Wisconsin Budget Project - Jan 4th, 2019 11:11 am
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Low-paid workers across the country got raises this week, as 19 states increased their minimum wages. Those raises will lift some workers out of poverty, help struggling families make ends meet, and make it easier for workers to achieve financial security. A minimum wage increase gives a particular boost to workers of color, for whom a long history of wage discrimination has depressed wages.

Wisconsin workers will get none of those benefits, because Wisconsin wasn’t among the states that increased their minimum wages. Wisconsin’s minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25, far below the $10 to $12 that some states now set as the minimum. Wisconsin’s minimum wage was last raised in 2009 and has lost about 17% of its purchasing power since then.

Workers should earn enough to support their families. But Wisconsin’s low minimum wage means that a full-time, full-year worker in Wisconsin can earn as little $14,500 per year. For a single parent, working at the Wisconsin minimum wage puts them below the poverty line and unable to meet their family’s basic needs.

The minimum wage increase in other states will lift the earnings of a significant chunk of the workforce and put millions more in wages into workers’ pockets. Across the country, 5.3 million workers will directly benefit from the wage increases, with a $5.4 billion increase in annual wages. Affected workers will see their annual paychecks increase by between $90 to $1,300, depending on the size of the increase in their state.

There are also an additional 24 cities and counties that increased their minimum wages as of January 1. Again, Wisconsin workers are barred from receiving a similar benefit, as state lawmakers have prohibited local governments in Wisconsin from setting their own minimum wages that are higher than the state’s minimum.

The large number and variety of states with increases in the minimum wage shows that this issue cuts across partisan lines. Several thoroughly “red” states that have legislatures and governor’s seats controlled by Republicans upped their minimum wage at the beginning of this year, including:

  • Arizona, where the minimum increased to $11.00,
  • South Dakota, where the minimum increased to $9.10; and
  • Arkansas, where the minimum increased to $9.25.

In some states, the minimum wage automatically goes up at the beginning of the year because lawmakers have set up a process to ensure that the wage floor keeps pace with inflation. In other states, the increases that took place this month are part of increases that are gradually phased in over several years, set in motion either by a successful ballot measures or legislation.

Governor-elect Tony Evers has said he favors gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 over several years. However, he would need legislative approval to put that plan into action, and Republican lawmakers have not shown any interest in raising the wage.

A higher minimum wage means that workers will be better able to make ends meet and support their families, but the benefits don’t end there. More income in the pockets of workers also translates to additional economic activity as workers spend their raises at local businesses buying groceries, getting their cars fixed, or paying off medical bills. It’s past time for Wisconsin to join the majority of other states that have set their minimum wages higher than $7.25, and help families with low-paid workers climb the economic ladder.

2 thoughts on “Wisconsin Budget: 19 States Just Raised the Minimum Wage”

  1. blurondo says:

    This is legalized slavery, smilingly agreed to by the corporations and their puppet state government under Walker. Due to gerrymandering, that relationship will continue even with the change in governor.

  2. mkwagner says:

    The term used by historians and sociologists is wage slavery. Wages are so low that workers cannot afford to care for their families. Struggling families sent their children (sometimes as young as 8 or 9) into the factories to help make ends meet. What’s more, many low wage workers lived in company towns. The housing all belonged to the corporation to which they paid rent. Grocery stores, in fact, all merchants were employees of the corporation. A common practice in these company towns was to cut wages and raise prices at the merchant establishments. Forcing laborers into debt to the corporation. If laborers were so bold as to protest these slave conditions, managers threatened to bring in replacement workers, most often African Americans or recent immigrants. This spread fear of African-Americans and immigrants among white laborers.

    Current Republican tactics in Wisconsin are moving us back to this era of wage slavery. They are even using the same fear tactics to drive a wedge of fear between urban and rural poor.

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