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Politics & Government

Barrett Signs Pay Raise Ordinance for City Workers Residing in Milwaukee


The City of Milwaukee is looking for ways to reward its workers – and keep them living in the city. Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday signed an ordinance into law that will provide two pay bumps – each 1.5 percent. One will come next month, the other at the end of the year – if the employee continues living in Milwaukee.

Mayor Barrett says raises for city workers are long overdue.

“There were no raises in 2010 and then of course, 2011 came when the world of collective bargaining changed dramatically,” Barett says.  

2011 is when Gov. Walker implemented Act 10. It weakened most public unions. At the same time, the government began requiring public workers to pay more for benefits, while freezing wages.

Barrett calls the pay bump modest, but better than nothing.

He also hopes it keeps city workers living in Milwaukee now that the state has outlawed residency’s rules. However, he’s not certain the incentive, is enough.

“I think that probably we’re going to need a larger one,” Barrett says.

Barrett says while it may seem out of the ordinary for the city to reward workers who live here, some private companies do the same.

“Large employers in particular have programs, and I know Harley Davidson did at one point, they might still. Northwestern Mutual did also, incentives for employees to live close to work,” Barrett says.

The city’s two bumps in pay will be available to all employees no longer represented by unions, and to the few that have recertified for the year. One is the Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council. Lyle Balestreri is president.

“(We) wish we were in a position where we could bargain like the policemen and the firemen do as well, and maybe someday we can get back to that point. But our members, the employees of the city of Milwaukee who serve the citizens of the city of Milwaukee have gone without a raise for a very, very long time and considering the mandate of the law, we’re happy to have what we have right now,” Balesteri says.

Milwaukee’s new ordinance does not apply to police and firefighters because Act 10 kept their unions intact. So the city must still negotiate their pay, according to Alderman Michael Murphy.

“And obviously they’ll be certainly negotiating more than a 1.5 percent increase. We will certainly be making our case to the arbitrator of what the city can afford to pay,” Murphy says.

Murphy says Milwaukee’s first responders make up 60 percent of the city’s labor costs/budget.