Fight for $15: WI Lawmakers, community advocates rally for wage increase

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A push to increase Wisconsin’s minimum wage is being reintroduced by state lawmakers.

Wisconsin father rallies for minimum wage increase

On Tuesday legislators, community advocates, and workers gathered as the new proposal was announced. Among those in attendance was Troy Brewer, a father of three from Milwaukee. Brewer says he just wanted to spend more time with his kids but working two jobs to provide for his family means less time at home with them. "I miss out on so much like school recitals, basketball games, and watching them grow up," he said.

Work keeps him busy and he’s often not around to help the kid with homework or have dinner with them. “I do it out of necessity, not by choice,” said Brewer who currently runs a kitchen at Fiserv Forum. He also works a second restaurant job to make ends meet. Just last week, Fiserv Forum employees reached a tentative contract which includes a $15 minimum wage increase later this year. While this change will help Brewer’s situation, he says keep fighting for wage increases for others.

"Most reasonable people would agree that if you are working at least 40 hours per week you should not live in poverty; however, currently one in four Wisconsin workers have poverty-wage jobs. While the federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009, the cost of living in Wisconsin has only continued to rise with exuberant housing, childcare, and healthcare costs...,said Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), who is introducing the legislation that would raise the minimum wage over a five year period.

Right now, Wisconsin's minimum wage is $7.25 cents an hour. This has been the case since 2009 and matches the national minimum wage. “When you're only earning $7.25 an hour, you really can't afford much here," said Angela Jones, Director of, Community Impact: Income at United Way of Dane County. Jones helps families and individuals struggling with income find resources

Much of this is through the Hire Initiative. "We've been able to get 748 folks into jobs earning $15 per hour or more,” said Jones. Jones also works with employers, helping them understand the needs of the workforce. She said a lot of what she does it helping to get employers onboard with wage increases. “In reality, if you want retention and want to retain employees, you really have to be paying them at a wage where they can provide for themselves and their family,” said Jones.

Jones says she has seen firsthand the ripple impact, low wages can have on a family. She says kids are impacted, mental health, and overall wellness when families and individuals are struggling financially. “Depending on their family size even at $15 an hour that still might not be enough,” said Jones.
Major companies are slowing starting to join the movement. American Family Insurance recently pledged to raise its minimum wage to $20 per hour. Brewer says hardworking people are struggling all over the country. “It's not just Wisconsin. This is way bigger than me," he says.

Not everyone agrees with this movement. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report in July arguing that increasing the minimum wage to $15 would benefit 27 million people, but also cost 1.3 million people their jobs.
The National Federation of Independent Business says this move will hurt small business owners and ultimately have a negative impact on their employees.