WJN Calls For Immediate Passage to Address Low Wages, Staggering Income Inequality
Joining state legislators introducing the “Wisconsin Fair Minimum Wage Act,” Wisconsin Jobs Now called for swift passage to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and to index it to inflation.
Wisconsin Jobs Now Executive Director Jennifer Epps-Addison said, “At a time of staggering income inequality and declining living standards for working class and poor people, Wisconsin workers cannot wait. Now is the time for increasing the minimum wage to create the security and opportunity deserved by all working people.”
For a full-time worker, Wisconsin’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour equates to $290 per week. Had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation since the benchmark year of 1968, it would be nearly $11 per hour; with worker productivity, $17 per hour; and, with CEO salaries, $28 per hour.
“We can’t survive on seven twenty-five, on eight twenty-five or on nine twenty-five,” said Mary Coleman a low-wage worker who would see her wages go up with an increase in the minimum wage, and a Wisconsin Jobs Now activist. She continued, “I need a wage that would help me bring my family out of poverty and not have to rely on public assistance. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 is a good first step.”
In recent years, corporate profits not only hit the highest levels in recorded history but also took in the largest ever share of the American economy. At the same time, worker wages made up the smallest proportion of the economy. For nearly four decades, average wages have been flat when adjusted for inflation and actually declined for lower-income workers. The richest ten percent of Americans now hold half of all American wealth.
Marielle Crowley, another directly affected Wisconsin Jobs Now low-wage worker activist said, “This economy doesn’t work for people like me. It doesn’t work for anyone but the corporations and the rich.” He added, “It’s not fair that I have to choose between paying my bills and putting food on the table while the rich get richer and these profitable corporations take more and more. In the richest country in the world, there’s enough wealth to pay me a living wage.”
Across the country, nearly 30 states and cities will take up increases to their minimum wage rates in 2014 through legislative proposals or ballot initiatives. Some are considering minimum wage levels of $11.50, $12.50 and even $15 per hour. In 2013 fast food and retail workers went on strike in 150 cities nationwide, including half a dozen led by Wisconsin Jobs Now. In Milwaukee County, low-wage workers and a coalition of 40 labor and community organizations led by Wisconsin Jobs now launched a campaign to win a “living wage” ordinance that would ensure adequate wages for workers employed by companies who benefit from public resources.
“A movement is rising across the country demanding higher wages,” said Peter Rickman, Living Wage Campaign Director for Wisconsin Jobs Now. He added, “Politicians have to choose which side they’re on: Are they going to stand with corporate interests and the obscenely wealthy who broke our economy, or are they going to stand with working people organizing and fighting for justice.”
On Tuesday, State Representatives Cory Mason & Eric Genrich and State Senators Bob Wirch & Nikiya Harris introduced a bill entitled “Wisconsin’s Fair Minimum Wage Act.” The legislation, if passed, would gradually increase the state minimum wage to $10.10 through 2016.