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Report: $15 Minimum Wage Would Increase Racial & Gender Equity In Wisconsin

A minimum wage increase to $15 an hour would impact 3 in 10 Wisconsinites.
Hyejin Kang
/
Adobe Stock Images
A minimum wage increase to $15 an hour would impact 3 in 10 Wisconsinites.

President Biden has renewed the fight for a higher federal minimum wage. Currently, it stands at $7.25 an hour. The president wants to more than double it to $15.

Although the Fight for 15 movement is nearly a decade old, there isn’t a single state with a minimum wage that high. And while the majority of states do have a minimum higher than the federal standard, Wisconsin is not among them. A new fact sheet released by COWS, a nonpartisan think-and-do tank based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would mean a pay raise for at least 30% of Wisconsinites. For women and people of color, the change would be massive.

"While it moves wages for 3 in 10 Wisconsin workers, it moves wages up for half of Hispanic workers and half of Black workers in the state, and 37% of women," says Laura Dresser, associate director of COWS.

At a time when many businesses are struggling to survive, business owners and political leaders have been concerned a minimum wage increase could be unsustainable. Dresser says these claims are unfounded and that states that have raised the minimum wage — including Wisconsin's neighbors Minnesota and Illinois — makes businesses more competitive and creates a more sustainable workforce.

"There's a way it ripples through the economy too, right? Workers have a little more money to spend locally, they're more able to buy more things," she explains.

Still, Dresser says that while higher minimum wages are popular among voters across political lines, conservative politicians in Wisconsin continue to fight against raising wages. She says it's unlikely that state politicians would pass a minimum wage raise, but that pressure from voters could make that politically viable and a federal raise would automatically raise the minimum in Wisconsin.

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.