Wisconsin's minimum wage will increase by 60 cents to $6.50 an hour for most workers on June 1. A recent article in the Portage Daily Register reports that the state's Department of Workforce Development expects to see a positive "ripple effect" where many other workers making just above the minimum will also see wage increases.
1997-2006 is the longest period since a minimum wage was first established in 1938 that the federal rate has not been adjusted. As the cost of living has increased, 18 other states have set their minimum wage above the federal rate of $5.15 an hour. Oregon and Washington have passed initiatives indexing their minimum wages to increases in the consumer price index and now have the highest rates in the nation. Kansas is distinguished by setting its minimum wage well below the federal level at $2.65 an hour.
It's hard to imagine that anyone believes $5.15 an hour is enough to live on, much less support a family. To understand the true cost of living, the Family Economic Self Sufficiency project is calculating what workers would need to be paid in order to be genuinely self-sufficient, on a state-by-state and local basis.
Cities and towns have established living wage ordinances that cover some workers. Homeless advocates are working to establish a universal living wage that would be indexed to local Fair Market Rents set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Economic Policy Institute argues for indexing the federal rate to inflation, in part to avoid the kind of political fear and loathing that has prevented Congress from taking action for nearly ten years.