Low-paid workers across the country got raises recently, as 19 states increased their minimum wages.
Those raises will lift some workers out of poverty, help struggling families make ends meet, and make it easier for workers to achieve financial security. A minimum wage increase gives a particular boost to workers of color, for whom a long history of wage discrimination has depressed wages.
Low-paid workers across the country got raises in recent weeks, as 19 states increased their minimum wages. Those raises will lift some workers out of poverty, help struggling families make ends meet, and make it easier for workers to achieve financial security. A minimum wage increase gives a particular boost to workers of color, for whom a long history of wage discrimination has depressed wages.
Wisconsin workers will get none of those benefits, because Wisconsin wasn’t among the states that increased their minimum wages. Wisconsin’s minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25, far below the $10 to $12 that some states now set as the minimum. Wisconsin’s minimum wage was last raised in 2009 and has lost about 17% of its purchasing power since then.
Workers should earn enough to support their families. But Wisconsin’s low minimum wage means that a full-time, full-year worker in Wisconsin can earn as little $14,500 per year. For a single parent, working at the Wisconsin minimum wage puts them below the poverty line and unable to meet their family’s basic needs.
The minimum wage increase in other states will lift the earnings of a significant chunk of the workforce and put millions more in wages into workers’ pockets. Across the country, 5.3 million workers will directly benefit from the wage increases, with a $5.4 billion increase in annual wages. Affected workers will see their annual paychecks increase by between $90 to $1,300, depending on the size of the increase in their state.
There are also an additional 24 cities and counties that increased their minimum wages as of January 1. Again, Wisconsin workers are barred from receiving a similar benefit, as state lawmakers have prohibited local governments in Wisconsin from setting their own minimum wages that are higher than the state’s minimum.
The large number and variety of states with increases in the minimum wage shows that this issue cuts across partisan lines. Several thoroughly “red” states that have legislatures and governor’s seats controlled by Republicans upped their minimum wage at the beginning of this year, including:
- Arizona, where the minimum increased to $11.00
- South Dakota, where the minimum increased to $9.10
- Arkansas, where the minimum increased to $9.25
In some states, the minimum wage automatically goes up at the beginning of the year because lawmakers have set up a process to ensure that the wage floor keeps pace with inflation. In other states, the increases that took place this month are part of increases that are gradually phased in over several years, set in motion either by a successful ballot measures or legislation.
Governor Evers has said he favors gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 over several years. However, he would need legislative approval to put that plan into action, and Republican lawmakers have not shown any interest in raising the wage.
A higher minimum wage means that workers will be better able to make ends meet and support their families, but the benefits don’t end there. More income in the pockets of workers also translates to additional economic activity as workers spend their raises at local businesses buying groceries, getting their cars fixed, or paying off medical bills. It’s past time for Wisconsin to join the majority of other states that have set their minimum wages higher than $7.25, and help families with low-paid workers climb the economic ladder.
Originally published on wisconsinbudgetproject.org
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