If the progressive Madison City Council has its way, local voters will no longer have a voice in the proposed 50 percent increase in the minimum wage. With Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s endorsement, the minimum-wage campaign will now try to bypass a referendum vote because it believes it has the votes on City Council to enact legislation without public support.
Proposing his own wage hike of $7.75 per hour for minimum-wage-earning Madisonians, Cieslewicz’s proposal is a convenient means for the city’s progressives to circumvent the rigors and potential challenges a referendum campaign presents.
However, city officials are forgetting an important point in the process. Alders did not campaign on the minimum-wage issue when running for City Council. Thus, if City Council members vote and decide on a minimum-wage change, there will be no opportunity for voters to have their voice heard. Citizens had no idea how the alder they voted for last spring felt about the minimum wage because this has never been a significant campaign issue. For this precise reason, the minimum-wage issue should be one that goes to the people.
If the referendum were to go to a vote, it would face a challenge by groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. By pushing the vote through City Council, the minimum-wage campaign organizers appear to be successfully turning an otherwise nearly impossible win into a likely victory. Instead, the mayor’s proposed ordinance would require the standard majority of 11 of the 20 City Council members. A decision of this magnitude should be decided by more than 11 people.
The minimum-wage campaign organizers and their supporters now appear ready to enact legislation that will prove to be a long-term detriment to the economic vitality of the greater campus area and the city as a whole. Campaign organizers have expressed confidence in having the necessary votes for the measure to pass through City Council.
The current alders were not elected to enact a citywide minimum wage, and such a drastic measure of economic importance deserves a fair assessment by the voters. But the progressives now holding sway over Madison politics seem to think otherwise.