On Oct. 14, Scott Walker may have slipped up when he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his view on the minimum wage.
“I don’t think it serves a purpose,” he said.
His opponent, Mary Burke, not only believes in a minimum wage. She wants to see it raised to $10.10 an hour.
A majority of Wisconsinites are in Burke’s corner on this bread and butter issue.
The latest Marquette University Law School poll, released on Oct. 15, shows 61 percent of likely voters want to increase the minimum wage, while 35 percent are opposed.
Walker has called raising the minimum wage a “job-killing agenda.”
But the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, refutes that.
“The 13 states that raised the minimum wage at the
beginning of 2014 experienced subsequent job growth equal to or better” than those that did not, the center said this month.
And in a report it issued in February, the center found that raising the minimum wage “would increase economic activity by $517 million. That growth would generate 3,800 new jobs as businesses expand.”
The benefit for low-wage workers would be dramatic. It would boost wages for “587,000 workers—over one-in-five workers in the state,” the center noted.
It would be good for children, too. “Some 234,000 Wisconsin children will see family income rise as a result of the minimum wage increase,” the report found.
Walker has been under pressure all fall on this issue. In September, 100 Wisconsin workers filed complaints with the Walker administration that the state’s $7.25 minimum wage violates a 1913 state law.
That statute says: “Every wage paid or agreed to be paid by any employer to any employee…shall be not less than a living wage,” which must be enough to “permit an employee to maintain herself or himself in minimum comfort, decency, physical and moral well-being.”
Back in 1913, Wisconsin and other states passed laws, over the objections of employers, to put a floor on wages based on what it cost workers to live. They calculated the costs of food, housing, and other basic necessities. The beneficiaries of these laws were mainly women and children.
The Walker administration, taking a page from the early twentieth-century industrialists who wanted to keep exploiting child labor and keep forcing workers to slave for next to nothing, denied their claims. “The department has determined that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the wages paid to the complainants are not a living wage,” said Robert Rodriguez, administrator of the equal rights division of the Department of Workforce Development.
According to the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a worker cannot keep a family of four out of poverty even with a full-time job paying $11.36 an hour, much less $7.25 an hour.
Wisconsin Jobs Now, which helped file the complaints, responded immediately to the Walker administration’s denial.
“For the governor to brazenly say to the working families of Wisconsin that $7.25 an hour is enough to sustain themselves is not only misguided, it is incredibly ignorant and willfully obtuse," the group said.
It is also unpopular. And with Walker in a dead heat with Mary Burke in the latest Marquette poll, his reactionary view on the minimum wage could come back to haunt him.