|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 5, 2005|
||Press Secretary Carlene Orig|
Republican Leadership Should Act Responsibly With Bi-Partisan Commission
Mayor Barrett Calls for Immediate Action on Increasing Minimum Wage
Milwaukee—Mayor Tom Barrett today called on Republicans to reverse their decision to manipulate the legislative floor period to delay increasing the minimum wage for two years. "We are off to a bad start in the New Year if we can't even agree to raise the wages of the lowest income earners in Wisconsin," said Mayor Barrett. "Let's join states like Illinois, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington by trying to close the poverty gap for families living on the minimum wage," said Mayor Barrett.
A bi-partisan commission with representatives from business, labor, and legislators worked on a compromise recommendation to raise the current minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 over two years. The current wage has not been increased in over seven years. Studies have shown that the increase would impact over 130,000 individual workers and that over half of those are over the age of 25, not the perceived part-time teen worker. "Raising the minimum wage particularly helps women and minorities and obviously Milwaukee's working families would see more disposable income rather than inflation eating away at their purchasing power. Families gain. Business gains," said Mayor Barrett.
Mayor Barrett dismissed as "tired old arguments" the notion that increasing wages deter job creation. "The last wage increase in '96-97' did not see a job loss and actually saw job growth. In fact, there is no credible evidence that suggests that raising the minimum wage has a negative impact on economic development or job growth," said Mayor Barrett.
"If Craig Culver (founder of Culver's Restaurants), the restaurant association, grocers and unions can work out a compromise than surely Republican legislators who have not frozen their wages in the last seven years can get out of the way and allow this increase to happen, or we are back to the same ole partisan bickering that plagued us last session" said Mayor Barrett.
Mayor Barrett also cited his preference for a statewide minimum wage rather than going at it alone, but did not rule it out. "I have always supported the uniformity of state and federal minimum wage rates," Mayor Barrett said. "The entire Legislature will be working on the state budget through the end of June. It is my hope that the minimum wage increase will be in place no later than that. I will not wait two years," said Mayor Barrett.