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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Under pressure to raise his state’s minimum wage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker confidently declared that there was no need to do so. Low-wage workers had filed a complaint charging that the state’s minimum wage — $7.25 — did not constitute a “living wage” as mandated by state law. But the Republican governor’s administration, after examining the issue, announced earlier this month that it found “no reasonable cause” for the complaint.

That official government finding was supposed to come from a dispassionate investigation. Yet, documents reveal that it was largely based on information provided by the state’s restaurant lobby, which represents major low-wage employers including fast-food companies.

Indeed, the Raise Wisconsin campaign, which is pushing for a higher minimum wage, requested all documents on which the state based the “living wage” ruling. And the only economic study that the administration released in response was an anti-minimum-wage analysis from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association — a group that lobbies against minimum-wage increases.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to see that the minimum wage is not a living wage. For instance, there is data showing that nearly half of all restaurant workers live at or near the poverty level. Alternately, some low-wage employers have acknowledged that people who work for them can scarcely make ends meet. Last year, McDonald’s corporate documents effectively admitted that its low-wage jobs do not provide enough income on which to survive.

In light of those realities, Democrats have made GOP opposition to a higher minimum wage central to their 2014 election campaign. They were bolstered a few months ago when the Associated Press reported that “the 13 U.S. states that raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year are adding jobs at a faster pace than those that did not.”

Some Republicans have responded by embracing a higher minimum wage, but not Walker, who is locked in a tight re-election battle and is seen as a prospective 2016 presidential candidate. With various localities in his state voting on minimum-wage referendums in 2014, he has drawn withering criticism for saying, “I don’t think [the minimum wage] serves a purpose.”

Then came the back and forth over his state’s living wage law. With Walker’s Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, surging in the polls, his administration was forced to respond to the low-wage workers’ complaint, which argued that the current minimum wage violates state statutes requiring “every wage paid” in the state to be a “living wage.”

As the complaint showed, Wisconsin’s current minimum wage provides an annual income well below the federal poverty line for a two-person household. According to data compiled by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Amy Glasmeier, a single parent with one child would need to earn more than double the state’s existing minimum wage to cover essential expenses such as housing, food and health care.

Despite those facts, Walker’s administration issued a ruling rejecting the complaint. Thanks to the documents released from the investigation, we know it did so based on a restaurant industry study declaring that that raising the minimum wage could “do more harm than good.”

In evaluating the living-wage question, why did Walker rely primarily on the less-than-disinterested restaurant industry? It is hard to know for sure, but following the money reveals an important fact: Before the ruling was issued, Walker’s campaigns had taken in more than $200,000 from donors in the restaurant industry, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

That’s a lot more cash than Wisconsin’s low-wage workers can probably muster — especially when the state’s minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour.

David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books Hostile Takeover, The Uprising and Back to Our Future. Email him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Dominick Vila

    Considering the cost of living in prosperous BLUE states, and the minimum wage in other industrialized nations, $10.10 does not even cover the essentials. That is, unless you live and work in RED states where such meager earnings constitute a fortune and something so pervasive that, if implemented, would destroy our industry and way of life.
    Opposition to raise the minimum wage has nothing to do with need or logic, it is all about ideology and the need to preserve the obscene profits and shareholder earnings enjoyed by those who don’t hesitate to accumulate wealth at the expense of poor, the elderly, the handicapped, and the under educated. Incredibly, or perhaps not, the GOP has managed to convince many of our most vulnerable citizens, and a large segment of our middle class, that raising the minimum wage may jeopardize their ability to find a job, that inflation would sky rocket, and that the needs and labor of 47% of our population don’t deserve to be met or rewarded.

    • Independent1

      What’s surprising to me, is that many wealthy can’t see that by fighting against a min wage, they’re doing at least 2 things: 1) setting themselves up for a future of diminishing returns where as they suck more and more of the life out of the middle and lower classes, whatever profits their companies are now earning can only look forward to declining; and 2) keeping themselves from actually enjoying greater profits – companies operating in states and countries with a higher minimum wage actually have greater profitability because more of their customers can afford to buy the products or services that actually generate more profits.

      When Senator Warren demonstrated that even McDonald’s could afford to increase the min wage of it’s employees to $10.10 by only increasing the price of one combo meal by 4 cents; it became clear that not raising the min wage has nothing to do with profits – it’s all about ideology and pure outright meanness.

      Here’s the link to a video of Bernie Sanders with Bill Moyers which you may enjoy if you haven’t seen it – they discuss a lot of the issues around what’s keeping America from moving forward today – like Citizens United.

  • bobnstuff

    I keep waiting for the voters to wake up and see the republican party for what it has become, a tool for the rich to protect and increase their wealth.

  • FT66

    The existing minimum wage is a total insult to those who wake up early in the morning and say they are going to work, while what they receive is making them survive and not live. We have seen some politicians like Sen. Boker of New Jersey who tried to survive a week living the way minimum wage earners do. Can anyone ask him how good it was to survive that way???? Minimum wage is NOT a living, it is a survival.

    • helmsbusla

      What is the real kicker here is that Sen. Boker was able to go back to living as he was. He didn’t really feel the pinch of minimum wage on the long haul, unlike the rest of us. Living on that for years and years, not just months. Too many of these government types need to live for a year or more on minimum wage to really know what it is like to not be able to have cable tv because all your income goes to rent, heat & electric, and since the FCC changed about how a person watches television, if you don’t have the proper equipment, you don’t get television, and don’t forget that in some areas of this country a person needs a vehicle, so there is also gas, and insurance that you need to worry about. Well add it all up, and what is there left? Nothing. No money to even get food. Sure there is the government’s version of Food Share (Formerly called Food Stamps) which is barely enough to keep even a young child full. There are many times when I go without food, so my child will have something in his stomach. Nothing is going to change because the people who have tons of money don’t really understand what it is like to not know if the money you do have will last until the next pay check. Or that if that check will cover the bills.

  • Freedom Fighter

    $7.25 an hour with a 40 hour work week, that would all go towards my vehicle payment!

    • Whatmeworry

      Those are the only jobs created by Barak

    • what the heck are you driving? That’s over $1,000 a month for a vehicle payment?

      • Freedom Fighter

        I’ve made my money, I drive what I want too 🙂

  • johninPCFL

    The restaurant association? Really? Herman Cain’s old organization that lobbied Congress and ultimately fixed the waiters’ wages BELOW minimum wage still finds fault with the whole concept? Big surprise there?

  • bikejedi

    The minimum wage jobs were never meant to be jobs one would support themselves on . These are starter jobs for people with little education , work experience , and job skills . They were usually filled by teens living at home and elderly looking to stay active and pick up a few bucks . They taught kids job skills and a work ethic . They gave these kids something to put on their resumes . It is only because Obamanomics is such a Train Wreck and the Dems cant run on their records that this class warfare rhetoric is being aimed at the very people it will hurt the most … And that is poor people and poorly educated people .. A raise in the Min Wage will mean higher unemployment and it wont improve those poor people’s plot in life as everything they have to pay for will also go up in price … It would seem that Dem voters dont understand basic economics .. It really is simple .. When you raise an employers overhead he has to raise prices to cover that … So raising his overhead will negate any raise those people may get … It will also increase the prices of goods and services for everyone else … That will negatively impact those people’s ability to be consumers .

    • BillP

      Still writing your bs comments about the economy!. The stock market is still at or near record levels, corporate profits are doing well, the US dollar is doing better than the Euro, Pound, Yen and other currencies, unemployment is at 5.9%. Your simplistic statement “When you raise an employers overhead he has to raise prices to cover that” belies the research that shows just the opposite will occur. People in minimum wage jobs will put their money into the economy to buy food, clothing, etc. You have continually shown your lack of financial and investment knowledge on this site numerous times.

      • bikejedi

        Obamanomics is a Train Wreck .. You don’t have to ask me for proof of that all you have to do is look at Dems running for reelection . While you sit here letting them use you as a toll to repeat their erroneous talking points they run away from everything they supported . The Proof ? Not a single one of them is running on Obamanomics . My advice to you Bill is to take it up with your Party standard bearers because they agree with me yet here you are spewing for them . You don’t have even a base understanding of economics . The proof of the is the fact that you keep talking about the improvement in the Markets without mentioning the reason for it . That would be the QE policies of the fed where by they are using Tax Dollars to make an artificial Market bubble . This has helped the UBER Wealthy become even wealthier on the backs of the Middle Class Tax Payers . This policy as well as Obamacare have caused the most rapid increase in income disparity in out History and it was purposeful policy by Obama and the Dem’s to do that . ( See Cloward Piven )…And here you are touting that damaging policy for them .. You know the same policies that your leadership knows it cant run on . You know the same Train Wreck of Economics that they know that America would not buy if they ran on it .. You Know the same policy they have you trying to sell soap for ….On the Min Wage…… By the way common sense and logic should tell you that when you raise an employers overhead by 40% he has to raise his prices to cover that .. The History on this show that it doesn’t raise anyone’s standard of living because everything they have to pat for has gone up a like amount . It also has a negative impact on employment affecting the very people your Party is aiming this false canard at …

        You keep selling soap for them Bill and they keep running away from everything you are selling … hence before you try to sell that soap to informed people please tell your Party to support you instead of me on this OK ?

      • Tony Cifaldi

        I also agree that minimum wage entry level jobs are not the jobs that most people supporting a family are working. They are usually jobs that teens or someone supplementing their income work. I’m a restaurant owner and would have no problem paying $10 an hour if we were exempt from paying a minor still in school that wage. But, I would also ask if $10 an hour is a living wage? How about $12? At what point and by who is a living wage determined? If welfare amounts to about $20 an hour, why would any of these people work for less and if businesses were forced to pay that amount, how many smaller ones would close up shop?

        • Frank Staples

          Tony, you are absolutely correct, speaking as a former business owner for over thirty five years. Note to employees: If you make money for the business you will be paid accordingly. I actually had one young inexperienced worker tell me that if I’d pay him more then he would work harder…and was amazed that I fired him on the spot! Minimum wage is an emergency wage…not meant to live on. If you are on min. wage then take a long hard look at your work habits!

  • What is considered a living wage? enough to eat and survive, maybe have shelter. Anyone have an idea of what it included. Should this wage be enough for for the person who is working, what lifestyle expectation should be considered. If someone rents a room instead of a house, they will certainly make the income stretch. People without dependents also don’t need as much so should their pay be penalized? People who don’t smoke can have a lot more available money, so the question is, is a living wage the amount that people can do pretty much what they want, or what they need to survive or something in between.