Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Madison deserves a raise

Madison is a great place to live, and, comparatively, it is a very wealthy Midwest community. The UW, our state capitol, and the numerous industries that keep their headquarters here provide Madison with a robust regional economy and the highest metropolitan median wage in Wisconsin. When looking at the employment profile of our community, however, it is sometimes easy to forget that for all of our lawyers, professors and bureaucrats, there are a greater number of housekeepers, bartenders, childcare workers, cashiers, and home-care professionals. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development shows that one-tenth of all jobs in Madison pay less than $7.72 per hour.

The federal minimum wage has stagnated at $5.15 with no changes since 1996, and no significant efforts to raise that bottom standard are being waged in Washington. Doing the math, we realize that a person working full time at the minimum wage in Madison earns $10,712 per year — well below the federal poverty threshold for a single person, let alone for a family with children. Further, Madison is a particularly difficult place for low-wage workers because of the exorbitantly high cost of housing in our community. Someone earning the minimum wage in Madison would have to work 72 hours per week to afford an average one-bedroom apartment.

For these reasons, community leaders and student groups have formed the Madison Fair Wage Campaign, a grassroots effort to place a charter ordinance on the Feb. 17 ballot that would establish a municipal minimum wage of $7.75, and a wage increase to $3.88 for tipped employees. Further, these increases of 50 percent and 67 percent, respectively, will be permanently indexed to inflation.

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Madison is certainly not the first to undertake this measure. Currently, 12 states and three cities have increased minimum wages due to federal inaction on the issue. Today, petition-gathering campaigns are taking place in the City of San Francisco and the State of Florida.

As we begin this mission of fighting for Madison’s working families and individuals, we know that the process is daunting and that the opposition will be fierce. To get this ordinance on the ballot for February, we need to collect more than 12,000 petition signatures within the next 60 days, and we know that most ballot initiatives fail in the signature-gathering process. To that end, we need the help of every concerned student. Thousands of workers in Madison would benefit from this policy, and we, as students, can make that happen. We can’t pass up the opportunity to make such a big difference for such a big group of people.

Currently, the student group Poverty Action Network is leading the charge to collect signatures. We’re looking for interns, volunteers, campaign leaders, and anybody who wants to help. If you want to get involved, please attend the PAN kickoff on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in 2650 Humanities, or e-mail [email protected].

Joe Lindstrom ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science. He is the founder of the Poverty Action Network.

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