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Milwaukee County Board passes living wage ordinance, 12-6

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee County Board on Thursday, February 6th passed an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage for county employees, and employees of companies that have a contract with the county. The ordinance raises the minimum wage for those workers to $11.32 an hour.

Now that this ordinance has passed, there is concern this will hurt the county in the long run.

By a vote of 12-6, the Milwaukee County Board passed the ordinance on Thursday.

Among those smiling afterwards was Kevin Walker, who works security at the Mental Health Complex.

"I can be able to go to work and not concentrate on how I'm gonna pay bills, how I'm gonna take care of my daughter -- just be able to feel like a man," Walker said.

Critics of the ordinance say this will cost the county millions of dollars, as companies will just charge more to provide services in order to cover the increased wages.

"I think every person would like to have a pay increase, but this is not the way to do it because what you're essentially doing is putting it on the back of the taxpayers of Milwaukee County," Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor said.

Others against the ordinance include Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander and Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor.

Taylor said the following in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed with my colleagues who voted in favor of this misguided proposal.  This measure creates a $1,000,000 deficit in our budget and the Milwaukee County taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab.  This is also a blatant attempt to strengthen union support and funding.”

The Milwaukee County Comptroller's Office estimates the ordinance will cost the county $1 million this year.

Next year, the estimate increases to more than $4 million, by 2017, nearly $5.5 million and by 2019, more than $7 million.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says in a statement: "I continue to invite supervisors to consider broader action to address poverty that doesn't undermine Milwaukee's fragile economy -- such as joining me and other Democratic leaders in pushing for an increase in the state and federal minimum wage."

Supporters of the ordinance packed Abele's office after Thursday's vote, calling for him to support the ordinance.

Its sponsor, David Bowen says we shouldn't read too much into the early estimates.

"Those numbers are projections and we need to be very clear that those aren't definite numbers. It could be very minute in the numbers that might come back to the board," Bowen said.

This ordinance does not apply to all workers affiliated with the county -- for example, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Mitchell International Airport are exempt.

Abele has not indicated whether he will veto the ordinance. However, 12 votes would be enough to override a veto, and there were 12 "yes" votes Thursday.


  • stock

    Another example of out “leaders” both steering people, jobs and companies away from Milwaukee county and disturbingthe free market capitalism that made our country great.

  • France Selina Williams

    This is ridiculous…since I work in Human Resources I can tell you that most people DON’T want to work! They are in poverty because they choose to be. There ARE jobs in Milwaukee County. However, if you lack knowledge, skills, and ability then of course your won’t have a position. Some people are downright UNEMPLOYABLE and keep it that way but never aiming to achieve anything. This will only give people who are lazy, and unemployable a sense of entitlement. It also is going to make everything else more expensive, and companies ARE NOT going to be able to pay that rate and keep others employed!!

  • Cierra

    The gap between upper and middle class needs to shrink! This is a step in the right direction. The idea that there are plenty of positions available and only lazy people don’t work enough to support themselves is completely misguided. I work two jobs for a total of 50 hours a week and I’m lucky! I applied for over 40 positions before I found the two jobs I have. Both pay little better than minimum wage. I have no kids, no outstanding medical or school debt, I’m lucky to get 6 hours of sleep a night and work every day of the week. I get a day off every other week if I’m lucky. I have to resort to maintaining any friendships or family relationships to occasional Facebook and text messaging because I don’t have the time to spend with any of them. I work thru every holiday I eat fast food as a treat to myself every other week on my day off. I spend that day off preparing healthy meals to keep in the freezer because I can’t afford to eat like most Americans do and if I did I wouldn’t have the energy or strength to keep working. I was in the hospital twice last year because I was born with weak knees and I have over worked myself to the point that its physically impossible to stand. All this because I refuse to accept food stamps and other forms of assistance for school or social security. I have barely kept up on the medical debt from these involuntary hospital visits. I’m a month behind on rent. With this $3 raise I hope to see at one of my jobs from this ordinance maybe ill be able to afford my very average rent next month. I spend every dime I earn almost as soon as I get it. I am still below the poverty level. Those on wall street have a sad and all consuming addiction to earning money. They don’t care if even when they spend money frivolously by the hour they still barely spend half their paycheck. They just want their number to be bigger than their friends. I believe that if you work 40 hrs a week at minimum wage you should be at the poverty level. If the gap between upper and middle class continues to grow, the ceos will starve the poor to death until there is no one to serve them coffee at Starbucks anymore. It’s not a sustainable system. I’m not saying there can’t be rich and poor. The richest people won’t even notice if they were half as rich as they are, their workers would. Their workers could be happy and healthy.

    • Skeptical

      You work 50 hours a week and have no time for anything else? I highly doubt the validity of your story. You do realize that there are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 6 a day that’s 42 hours, plus the 50 you work makes 92. What are you doing with the other 76? It just makes the rest of your story less believable

    • Jon

      You offend me with your selfish and ignorant ranting. The rich wall street people don’t live here, people like me do. I am middle class. I don’t have a new car, I work two jobs because my wife is in school, I don’t have fancy clothes, I don’t even have cable TV. I and people like me are the ones that will have to pay for your “living wage”. On top of that, Micheal R is exactly right that the minimum wage was not intended for someone to raise a family on. It is intended for high school kids to get work experience and pocket money from. It is a starting point where they can also either work their way up from or use the experience from to go out and get a better job later. I worked hard to get my degree so that I can make a living wage, did you? I currently live in the city of Milwaukee, but as soon as my wife graduates I fully intend to leave and go somewhere else where people have a clue.

  • josh

    its not going to help any if you work at walmart or pick n save where a lot of people work that could use a increase in pay its all good for the state employees but not the average employee

    • mixbyhand

      The more folks who get a raise, the more pressure on employers everywhere to be fair, if they want good workers who will stay. It’s the only way to start lifting everyone up in what they are paid. Like unions used to do. Non-union wages went up because of union contracts, when more workplaces had unions. (e.g., Toyota plants in U.S.) We need to replicate that now, any way we can.

      • Jon

        Are you serious? Where do you think the money will come from to “lift everyone up”? The fact is (because this HAS HAPPENED every time the minimum wage goes up) that people will be laid off, and some companies will go out of business completely. Sure, the ones who still have jobs will get paid more, but they will also have to do extra work to cover for the people the companies could no longer afford to keep. I am so sick and tired of people who run around acting like companies have some magical bucket of money that never runs out and think they just don’t want to share. I have worked for several companies that run with extremely tight margins and this kind of stupidity would kill them. As for the unions, that special kind of greed and stupidity is what almost killed GM, until the government had to step in and bail them out. Again, where will the money come from to pay the increased wages? Do you want the price of your hamburger to go from $5 to $9 just so the kid flipping the burgers can make a “living wage” for a job that isn’t worth a living wage? Try and think before you start talking next time.

  • Michael R

    “Living Wage”? Please! When was the minimum wage job EVER intended to raise a family with? What this board fails to realize is now that overhead has been increased, the additional revenue will need to be made up from somewhere. Im guessing this will come in the form of layoffs or other actions against the employees.

    This silliness needs to stop. Im tired of hearing people cry about having to work their minimum wage job because they never made any attempt at a higher education. Go back to school! Theres plenty of grants/loans available to ANYONE, and school can be done in as little as one night a week. Hell, Obama will even buy you a computer to do the work on, pay for the electricity to plug it into the wall of your subsidized apartment!

    Boy, I will be a happy camper when I sell my Milwaukee county residence and get out of this state again. This is ignorance at its best.

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