Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proposes raising lowest wage for city workers to $15 per hour

June 16, 2021  · 

  • By Alison Dirr
  • Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2021
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Wednesday proposed raising the wage of the city’s lowest-paid employees to $15 an hour starting in September.

“I think we all recognize the sacrifices and the challenges that have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic have not fallen evenly throughout our society,” he said, adding that lower-paid workers have struggled deeply.

The proposed pay increase would cost the city about $1.4 million annually and affect about 405 current employees, said city Department of Employee Relations Director Makda Fessahaye.

It is expected to cost about $700,000 this year, and the city’s Budget Office will work with departments to try to absorb the cost this year. The raise will be part of next year’s budget. 

Affected employees are currently making as low as about $8.19 an hour.

The change will affect some library circulation assistants, school crossing guards, temporary election workers, fire cadets and police aides, according to the city.

The proposal does not include raises for employees currently making $15 an hour but it is “part of ongoing conversations,” Barrett said.

The proposal will be submitted to the Common Council for the current cycle, which ends July 7.

Fessahaye said the proposal was an effort to treat workers fairly and to retain employees in a competitive labor market.

Milwaukee County is struggling with significant worker shortages, forcing the cancellation of Independence Day fireworks and bus service to Summerfest and the Wisconsin State Fair.

The announcement comes as the city is facing significant financial challenges in the coming years, when its annual pension contribution is expected to jump. At the same time, the city has also been allocated about $400 million in federal aid in response to the pandemic.