Friday, July 5, 2013

Milwaukee workers demand fair wages

Low-wage employees and those out-of-work in Milwaukee stormed the local chamber of commerce last week to protest that more than a third of the city's workforce are making poverty-level wages even when employed year-round.

About 50 people took over the offices of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) to demand that the city's businesses increase wages so workers can be lifted out of poverty. An estimated 100,000 full-time workers in Milwaukee currently don't make enough to make ends meet, according to a recent report.

Katina Carter from Raise Up Milwaukee said the report by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) is evidence that while jobs paying poverty wages are booming in the city, MMAC is doing little to help improve the lives of workers:
Economic recovery has not happened under the current direction of the MMAC and will continue to fail unless the leaders, the members of the chamber of commerce, face reality and accept the evidence you have in your hand that it’s time to implement real regulations in the best interests of the people, the workers.
The COWS report, released in late June, showed that 35 percent of Milwaukee employees earned poverty-level wages last year. The document states it takes a salary of $11.19 per hour to cover the bare necessities for a family of four in the city. The increase in poverty has resulted from manufacturing jobs being replaced with service-industry employment:
As better jobs in manufacturing have gone away, poverty-wage jobs have expanded. Increasingly workers do not make enough to cover their basic expenses, cannot rely on the hours they need to get by, cannot afford or qualify for health insurance, cannot afford even to ride the bus to get to work.
DeAngelo Coleman, a Pizza Hut employee who earns $7.75 an hour, said it is not right that big businesses gets rich while paying their workers so little:
I'm sure if they could pay me less they would pay me less.