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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, September 25, 2022
Assembly Session, Right to work, Budget 2015
Assembly Session, Right to work, Budget 2015

Rival bills hope to settle local wage issue

State lawmakers are clashing over how to handle labor reforms, with members of both parties introducing contrasting visions for the regulation of wages and employment benefits.

State Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, along with several colleagues, introduced the Local Wage Act, a package of bills intended to allow local governments to establish their own minimum wages, as well as family and medical leave standards.

“In the hands of Republicans, state government has failed its citizens by not raising wages and not addressing a lack of guaranteed paid leave,” Subeck said in a statement. “It is time to restore the ability of local elected officials to set wage floors that are reflective of the cost of living in their communities and to address the challenges faced by workers who need to take time off when they or their children are ill.”

Conversely, state Republicans are pushing a pair of bills that would prohibit local governments from enacting and enforcing their own wage and employee benefit standards, and cut medical and family leave time for some workers.

The first proposal is intended to "create a standard playing field for employers and to provide certainty to employees whether they are working in Milwaukee, Dane, Brown or Eau Claire County,” according to state Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, who introduced the legislation.

Republicans fear the localization of labor laws could create an excessive and uneven burden on employers, restricting hiring practices in certain areas.

Opponents, however, view differentiation as a necessity, considering the wide variety of economic conditions across the state.

“There is a cost of living difference between Madison and Marshfield, and local governments should have the ability to set wage floors accordingly,” said Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay. “With this bill we can ensure that no matter where you live, you will not work 40 hours a week and live in poverty.”

Democrats are unable to raise wage and benefit standards on the state level due to a strong Republican majority in the Legislature, making the localization of such laws especially attractive.

But given the overwhelming majorities Republicans have in both the state Senate and Assembly, the Republican bill is far more likely to see the light of day.

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