Taking the lead on the fight for a $15 minimum wage, the Dane County Board has approved a plan to increase minimum pay for county employees and contractors.
The change is projected to pump some $2 million into the local economy while helping lower-income workers make ends meet. It passed on a 33-2 vote of the county board at its regular meeting Thursday night.
“This is an aggressive, financially sound plan based on the best practices from across the country,” said Sup. Jeff Pertl, who represents Madison’s far east side. “It protects essential services while catching up wages for some of our most valuable, but lowest paid workers.”
Dane County’s “living wage” law applies to employees who provide direct services through a contract with the county. That includes general labor, clerical work, janitorial work, security, food service, human services contracts, personal care, and home care work.
It raises the minimum wage for those positions to $12.50 an hour in 2017 and 50 cents an hour each year thereafter until reaching $15 in 2022. After that, the minimum county wage will be indexed to the inflation rate.
Nationally, 29 states and several cities including San Francisco, Seattle, and New York have moved to boost their minimum wage to $15 an hour, which advocates and labor leaders say is the bare minimum to keep working families out of poverty.
Wisconsin has kept its state minimum wage in line with the federal minimum of $7.25, with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature opposing any increases. State law prevents local units of government from passing minimum wage laws that would apply to private sector workers but does allow living wage standards for work performed for local governments. Eau Claire and Milwaukee counties have previously passed living wage laws similar to Dane County’s.
“All workers deserve a livable wage for a hard day’s work and we applaud Dane County for supporting this progressive legislation,” said Kevin Gundlach, president of the South Central Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
Among Midwestern states, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota have moved to increase their statewide minimum wage beyond $7.25 an hour for all workers. In addition to Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana have kept their state minimum wage in line with the federal standard.
The $2 million economic impact estimate of the living wage ordinance in Dane County is based on a 7.2 percent increase in minimum pay for affected workers, according to county officials. The county is expected to pick up $1.1 million of the change, with the balance coming from other sources.