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At the Start of the New Year, Minimum Wages Went up in 21 States. Wisconsin Wasn’t One of Them.

Tamarine Cornelius

Low-paid workers across the country are getting raises because 21 states and 35 cities and counties increased their minimum wages around the beginning of the year. Those raises will lift workers out of poverty, help struggling families make ends meet, and make it easier for workers to achieve financial security. A minimum wage increase gives a particular boost to workers of color, for whom a long history of wage discrimination has depressed wages.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin workers won’t get any of those benefits, as Wisconsin lawmakers have refused to increase the state’s minimum wage for more than a decade. It’s still stuck at $7.25, far below the $15 that some states now set as the minimum. Wisconsin’s minimum wage was last raised in 2009 and has lost a quarter of its purchasing power since then. Thirty states have higher minimum wages. 

In Wisconsin, increasing the minimum wage to $15 would lift the wages of three out of ten workers, and it would especially help Black and Brown workers. Half of Black workers and over half of Hispanic workers in Wisconsin would get a raise, as well as one-third of Asian workers. It would lift the wages of one-quarter of White workers. Six out of ten workers who would get a raise are age 25 or older. Full-time workers who get a raise would earn an additional $3,500 a year on average. 

The minimum wage increase in other states will lift the earnings of a significant chunk of the workforce and put millions more in wages into workers’ pockets. The large number and variety of states with increases in the minimum wage shows that this issue cuts across partisan lines. Several thoroughly “red” states that have legislatures and governor’s seats controlled by Republicans upped their minimum wage at the beginning of this year, including Arizona, where the minimum increased to $12.80, and Missouri where the minimum increased to $11.15. 

In some states, the minimum wage automatically goes up at the beginning of the year because lawmakers have set a process to ensure that the wage floor keeps pace with inflation. In other states, the increases that took place this month are part of increases that are gradually phased in over several years, set in motion either by successful ballot measures or legislation.

In 2022, millions of workers in other states will reap the benefits of a higher minimum wage, and will be better able to support their families. Wisconsin workers should as well.