COWS Releases New Factsheet on $15 by 2025

Please reach out to Laura Dresser, COWS Associate Director (, 608-695-9065) with any questions. 

This week, COWS released a new report (factsheet available for download here) about the impact of raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. Wisconsin is one of just 21 states that has a wage floor set by the federal standard. With minimum wage in the national news, our new report highlights how Wisconsin workers would be impacted by a raise to $15 by 2025.

“Working during COVID demonstrates that Wisconsin workers have always been essential, and they are deserving wages that provide for decent and dignified labor and lives,” says Peter Rickman of MASH. “These are our food chain workers, from meatpackers to grocery stores and restaurants, our care workers from hospitals to nursing homes and childcare facilities, and service workers, like cleaners and security guards. They have always been essential and deserving of wages that allow a working person to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, and pay the bills on time. The past year of these workers putting their lives on the line in their essential work underscored that now is the time to dignify all labor with living wages.”

Who would be most impacted by $15?

The report offers insight into how a higher minimum wage would impact workers directly (those currently making less than the proposed $15/hour) and indirectly (those who would receive a raise because of adjustments to pay schedules).

A higher percentage of workers in Wisconsin would benefit from the increase than nationally, with 3 in 10 workers in the state benefiting directly or indirectly. This would be more than 843,000 workers.

In particular, raising the wage would have an enormous effect on closing racial, ethnic, and gender wage gaps, with the wage increase raising earnings for half of Black workers; over half of Hispanic workers; and 37% of women workers.

“As the budget process continues, we’re going to hear a lot about different programs that support our lowest-paid workers. Some of them are very exciting and would provide a lot of relief,” says Tamarine Cornelius, from the Wisconsin Budget Project. “As we’ve seen over the past year, with the more generous unemployment insurance benefits and direct cash relief, the reality is that working families just need more income. A higher minimum wage does that.”

Challenges to a higher wage

$15 by 2025 highlights how other states have passed the minimum wage, including through legislative action, by ballot referenda, and through ordinances passed at the local level. Wisconsin faces some challenges to these approaches, including due to its ban on local minimum wage ordinances.

State law preempts local government minimum wage ordinances. The state ban on local wage policies prevents communities from adopting wage standards appropriate to their industries, stifling labor market functions and workforce innovation.

To view the entire factsheet, download here.