Minimum Wage Battle Continues

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Wisconsin workers are one step closer to seeing an increase in the minimum wage. But that increase may come at the expense of some workers here in Madison.

Governor Jim Doyle estimates he's been battling Republicans in the legislature to an impasse over minimum wage for about nine months now. So he's starting over.

"We have issued a new emergency rule that will put the minimum wage–the first step–to $5.70 into effect immediately," Doyle said Wednesday.

It's essentially the same administrative rule issued last year, but Doyle hopes for a different result. "I hope the legislature is going to stand back this time and not block the implementation of the minimum wage."

Workers in Madison already have a $5.70 minimum wage, and while they'd like to see the rest of the state join them, they're afraid of what comes with that increase–preemption.

The state senate is just a party line vote away from sending a minimum wage preemption bill to Gov. Doyle that would wipe out Madison's pay raise. Doyle has indicated he will sign that bill, but only if Republicans agree not to block the statewide increase.

The locals rallied against preemption in Madison. "If the preemption bill is signed we will be trading a one time increase in the minimum wage for our ability to leverage another increase in the minimum wage when that's necessary," says Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

A preemption would especially hurt workers like Ryann Petit–Frere. She's a waitress at the Orpheum putting herself through school. Madison's minimum wage increased her salary–but a statewide increase doesn't apply to tipped employees.

"I don't know much about politics, but I do know that any bill that will take money out of my paycheck for no good reason just doesn't make sense," says Petit-Frere.

It will take 30 days before Doyle's latest administrative rule goes into effect, and he says he will veto the preemption bill if it comes to him before then, so for now both workers like Ryann and local politicians will have to wait.

If the rule goes into effect, the statewide minimum wage will increase to $5.70 an hour. Doyle says he will then issue another administrative rule to bring the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour starting June 1, 2006.

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