Mayor Backs $15 Minimum Wage For City Workers
More than 400 city employees would get a raise under Barrett's proposal.
A proposal from Mayor Tom Barrett would boost the city’s minimum wage for its own employees to $15 per hour starting in September.
“Is there some altruism involved? Yes. Is there some hard-headed practicality involved? Absolutely yes,” said Barrett in a press conference Wednesday morning.
Barrett’s proposal would raise the hourly pay for 405 workers, said Department of Employee Relations director Makda Fessahaye. She said 67% of those individuals currently live in the city.
The change, which will need Common Council approval, would cost approximately $700,000 in 2021 and $1.4 million per year after that. Barrett said the ongoing cost would be built into future budgets.
“We know that there is a cost to this, but there is also an issue of equity,” he said.
Workers making more than $15 per hour currently would not receive a pay increase, but Barrett said he expected general labor market trends to put upward pressure on their wages. “All that is part of the ongoing conversation with our employees,” he said.
The city has 6,239 employees according to Fessahaye, down more than 650 since 2004. The employees receiving raises work for the Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee Health Department, the civilian arm of the Milwaukee Police Department and the Department of Public Works.
The two lowest-paid city positions, library circulation aide and library teen outreach intern, currently pay $7.95 per hour according to a report provided to Urban Milwaukee. Wisconsin’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
The change would not apply to city contractors. It would apply to both full-time and part-time city employees.
Barrett’s proposal comes a week after he created a task force to publicly identify potential solutions to the city’s looming need to contribute an additional $77 million per year to the city’s pension fund. In April budget director Dennis Yaccarino warned that failure to come up with a long-term solution could result in thousands of layoffs. More than 77% of the pension cost increase is attributed to police and fire department employees.
The full council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is July 7th.