On July 22, 2014, the Milwaukee Common Council adopted an ordinance raising the minimum wage for all city employees and workers under service contracts with the city. Milwaukee’s hourly “living wage” will go from $9.51 an hour to $10.10 after the ordinance is signed into law, and then to $10.80 an hour starting March 1, 2015.
The ordinance’s primary sponsor, Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, said that increasing the minimum wage for city employees was the "right thing to do". Hamilton had initially proposed raising the minimum wage to $11.47 an hour next year, but the Milwaukee Finance and Personnel Committee, which met earlier Tuesday, was able to reach a compromise on a smaller increase. Hamilton also said that the Common Council considers the approved raise a “significant” increase and that “the council and the city are taking a proactive and positive approach to ensuring decent pay for our workers.”
Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, a co-sponsor of the measure, said the council’s action today is in step with President Obama’s national move to increase the minimum wage. “With additional money in their pockets, workers can buy more goods and services, which helps their families and also helps stimulate our local economy.”
Opponents of the wage increase point out that, according to their estimates, the cost to taxpayers over the next year and a half is projected to be between $141,223 and $221,139. There are also fears that the increase could lead to cuts in work hours and benefits, as well as pricing marginal workers with less education and job experience out of the labor market.
The City of Milwaukee would become the latest in several municipalities that have raised, or have contemplated raising the minimum wage. On June 26, Milwaukee County supervisors agreed to place on this November’s ballot an advisory referendum that would raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Earlier this month, a task force created by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recommended that the city increase its minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $13 an hour by 2018. The San Diego City Council recently approved a phased-in increase of the city’s minimum wage from $9 an hour to $11.50 an hour by 2017 and Seattle voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Cities of San Francisco and Oakland have also discussed raising their respective minimum wages.