We want to commend any effort to raise the current minimum wage in Wisconsin. $7.25/hr is a poverty wage and it disproportionately affects women, who comprise nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. It needs to be addressed immediately. We in Wisconsin NOW appreciate the County Board’s attention to this issue. We’re proud that this ballot measure is being proposed here in Dane County and throughout the state.
However, the question remains. Is $10.10 an hour enough of a raise to lift minimum wage workers out of poverty, to allow those workers the dignity of providing for their families? The answer is no, $10.10 is not enough. While any effort to improve current conditions for minimum wage workers is commendable, it is important to note that $10.10 an hour doesn’t even reflect what the minimum wage would be had it kept up with inflation. If it had, today’s minimum wage would be $10.74, an hourly wage that still wouldn’t meet the needs of Wisconsin families.
Wisconsin NOW calls on the Dane County Board to consider changing the language of this ballot resolution to instead suggest $15.00 an hour as the new minimum wage. All workers deserve a living wage, and we must start with minimum wage workers, who are currently toiling for wages that leave them and their families in poverty.
Suggesting $15.00 an hour as the bare minimum for all working people is especially critical in our new economy. Last year, it was determined that a record number of families rely primarily on a woman’s salary. Nearly two-thirds of those families are single-parent households in which mom is the breadwinner. Due to the pay gap and our failure as a nation to implement policies that support working mothers, roughly 60% of children in single-parent, mother-only households are impoverished, compared to just 11% of children in a two-parent household.
If we settle for a minimum wage that is below $15.00 an hour, the closest approximation to a living wage that has been fought for in Dane County, we are perpetuating hardship, especially for women. We are robbing them of their ability to afford housing in safe neighborhoods, to purchase good food, and to access healthcare and quality childcare.
And if we fail to raise the minimum wage at all, we are perpetuating sexism and racism, however unintentional. It is not a coincidence that job sectors that disproportionately employ women and people of color are also the sectors with the lowest wages. Women’s work has long been disregarded as less valuable, as have the contributions of people of color. And in spite of the fact that so many households now rely on a woman as the primary breadwinner, the myth that women need or want money less than their male counterparts persists. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will help begin to close the gaps that plague women, especially women of color. But raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour will go further, especially in Dane County, where the Economic Policy Institute estimates that a single parent with one child needs at least $25.00 an hour just to get by.
Again, we thank the Dane County Board for their efforts to address the desperate situation currently facing minimum wage workers and we look forward to supporting a resolution to raise the minimum wage in November. But on behalf of our membership and minimum wage workers throughout the state, we implore you to consider including a true living wage in the language of this resolution. Thank you.