Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

General City Workers Will Get 2% Raise

First raise for non-resident workers since 2008.

By - Dec 8th, 2021 03:08 pm
Department of Public Works sanitation workers in June 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Department of Public Works sanitation workers in June 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

All general City of Milwaukee employees are slated to see a 2% wage increase in 2022.

It would be the first across-the-board raise since 2008. The city’s pay progression program has also been suspended since 2019.

The raise would apply to the approximately 3,750 city employees who are not members of the Milwaukee Police Association, Milwaukee Police Supervisors’ Association and Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association. It would also not apply to elected officials, nor election employees, board and commission members and temporary positions with the Milwaukee Health Department.

General city employees that reside in the city were given a 3% raise in 2019, but their suburban-living coworkers were not.

As of July, 79.1% of general city workers live in the city. Only 44.7% of the 1,672 sworn members of the Milwaukee Police Department live in the city. The Milwaukee Fire Department reports a figure of 45.8%. The sworn members of each department are protected by collective bargaining and have received raises. At the unions’ request, Republican legislators passed a law stripping the city of its residency requirement in 2013. The public safety unions sued the city last month for attempting to use residency status as a consideration for promotions.

The Department of Employee Relations, led by Makda Fessahaye, has been increasingly inundated with position reclassification studies. The time-consuming studies are used to adjust compensation on a job-by-job basis. “We unfortunately have not been able to meet the needs of all the departments’ demands as it relates to salaries,” said Fessahaye to members of the Finance & Personnel Committee on Wednesday.

“Wage stagnation is a huge problem for our employees as well as the workload within DER,” said Common Council President Cavalier Johnson‘s chief of staff Kailyn Kenney. “As we know our employees are our biggest asset at the City of Milwaukee and we know we need to attract and maintain the talent needed to maintain our operations.”

The wage increase was included in the 2022 budget the council adopted in November. But the resolution making its way through the council is required to enact the change. No cost estimate is included with the resolution because it is already built into the budget, but the 2019 raise of 3% for city resident workers was estimated to cost $2.55 million per year.

Alderman Michael Murphy said he understood that Mayor Tom Barrett was originally considering proposing a larger raise for city residents, but opted to go with an across-the-board raise.

“The way that we have been paying employees has been so out of whack that creating additional disparities between our employees did not make sense at this time,” said Fessahaye.

The committee unanimously endorsed the proposal. The full council is slated to consider it on Dec. 14.

The raise, if adopted, would go into effect with the Jan. 9 pay period.

Commissioners have appeared repeatedly in recent years before the council to explain how they’re unable to hire or retain workers, ranging from snow plow drivers to public health nurses. Earlier in Wednesday’s meeting, Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson was called to answer for the high turnover in her department.

Johnson cited pay as the primary culprit. But she eventually noted that the pandemic-induced workload is also causing strain. “There is a level of exhaustion that I don’t think compensation can make up for,” she said.

Categories: City Hall, Weekly

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