Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Pushes Plan for $15/Hour Downtown Jobs

Would urge downtown businesses, developers to increase wages, worker protections.

By - Jul 30th, 2019 10:53 am
Fiserv Forum with Fear the Deer playoffs graphic. Image from the Milwaukee Bucks.

Fiserv Forum with Fear the Deer playoffs graphic. Image from the Milwaukee Bucks.

A proposal by Alderman Robert Bauman would explicitly declare the city’s endorsement of a $15 minimum wage and worker protections for employees of downtown businesses.

“The concept behind this is basically we have a lot of wealth creation going on downtown, we have a lot of development going on downtown, a lot of increase in assessed value downtown,” said Bauman at a hearing for the resolution. “There are people making money and that’s good, but we need to share that wealth with a lot of the workers that work downtown, but live in the neighborhoods that are experiencing declining assessments, declines in household income.”

The resolution touts the agreement between the Milwaukee Bucks and Alliance for Good Jobs as a great example of what employers should enter into. “The highlight of which is a graduated wage scale that ultimately gets to $15 an hour in 2023,” said Bauman. “Basically this creates a pathway to family-supporting jobs with the benefits and protections that organized labor and collective bargaining agreements provide.”

A state law sponsored by Representative Joe Sanfelippo of New Berlin makes it a crime for local government officials to require such an agreement as part of a zoning request. But Bauman said his resolution would codify the city’s stance and would allow the council to legally look favorably on voluntary offers.

The spirit of the agreement is targeted at major developments that might require city subsidies, including a potential hotel at W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Vel R. Phillips Ave (formerly N. 4th St.). A city ordinance already requires developers receiving $1 million or more in city financing to complete 40 percent of the project’s construction work hours by unemployed or underemployed city residents and 25 percent of the project contracts by value going to disadvantaged firms.

The proposal has the enthusiastic support of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH), a successor to the Alliance for Good Jobs. “This isn’t just high minded rhetoric, this is real tangible stuff,” said organization leader Peter Rickman. “What’s good for the Bucks ought to be good for other employers in downtown Milwaukee.”

“We don’t think this resolution is the solution to every problem,” said Rickman. But he does believe the resolution will encourage developers and businesses to establish agreements before the council considers subsidy or zoning proposals.

“There is literally no convention center headquarters hotel that has ever been built without massive, direct city involvement,” said Rickman. “You’re declaring to this developers and operators in advance ‘ this is what we want you to do.'”

All eight members of the Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee endorsed the proposal, including council president Ashanti Hamilton.

“When you go downtown and measure whether your experience was positive or not, it’s not going to be how the president or CEO of one of these companies treated you because you’re not going to be seeing them, “said Hamilton. “It’s going to be how the waitress treated you, how the bartender treated you, how the security treated you.”

The proposal, known as the Community-Oriented, Responsible, Equitable (CORE) Development Zone encompasses the city’s C-9 zoning district which runs approximately from W. McKinley Ave./E. Knapp St. on the north to the southern tip of the Historic Third Ward between Interstate 43 and Lake Michigan. But Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs suggested considering expanding the proposal slightly to encompass part of her district and other areas that are seeing new hotel proposals.

The council president, Bauman and Coggs are joined by Mark BorkowskiNik Kovac, Jose G. Perez, Khalif Rainey and Russell W. Stamper, II in sponsoring the legislation.

It’s likely to find more support with the rest of the council. Ald. Tony Zielinski has already introduced a proposal expressing the city’s support of a $15 minimum wage at the state level.

The full council will consider the proposal at its July 30th meeting.

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Related Legislation: File 190592

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