Wisconsin Economy Publications

Below is a list of our reports related to Wisconsin economy, in descending order by year published. Explore other topics here and all COWS reports here.

  • Dresser, L., and P. Aquiles-Sanchez. From Community Benefits, to Collective Bargaining, and Back . High Road Strategy Center, 2024.

    A good Community Benefits Agreement is crucial to generating strong community results from public investments in private interests such as sports stadiums. Milwaukee’s first CBA was successful at establishing labor peace and provided space for workers to create their union, the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH). In this report, we illustrate the ways in which MASH has been able to successfully secure improvements in employment and job quality standards for service workers in Milwaukee’s Deer District and beyond.

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  • Dresser, L., and P. Aquiles-Sanchez. Can’t Survive on $7.25: Higher Minimum Wages for Working Wisconsin. COWS, 2023.

    For 15 years, Wisconsin’s minimum wage has been stuck at the federal minimum level of $7.25, which has not been raised since 2009. A higher and well enforced minimum wage helps build a floor that allows workers, employers, and our communities to thrive. In this report, we offer a picture of who wins in Wisconsin with higher minimum wages and some reasons to support higher labor standards for the state. A stronger floor is necessary and possible in Wisconsin. Workers can’t survive on $7.25. It is time to raise the floor.

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  • Aquiles-Sanchez, P., L. Dresser, and J. Rogers. The State of Working Wisconsin 2023. COWS.

    In celebration of Wisconsin workers, COWS releases The State of Working Wisconsin 2023 with the most recent data available on wages, jobs, disparities, and unions to build a stronger understanding of what is going on in the state’s labor market.

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  • Over the past 40 years, the union manufacturing jobs that once flourished in Milwaukee have been replaced by low-wage, non-union service jobs, exacerbating racial and economic disparities. Properly addressing the intertwined issues of declining union and manufacturing jobs and growing racial disparity starts with restructuring the city’s service sector. In this report, we take a deep look into the city’s service jobs across multiple industries and occupations. We also hear from workers themselves on what is empowering them and what remains unaddressed on the city’s economic frontlines.

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  • Dresser, L., P. Aquiles-Sanchez, and A. Kanter. The Crisis in Milwaukee’s Service Industry. COWS, 2022.

    There’s a crisis in service work in Milwaukee. Too many of these jobs—in food service, janitorial work, security services, and human and health services—offer low wages, inadequate and often unpredictable hours, and benefits packages that are usually weak, if they exist at all. For Milwaukee, these jobs have been a sorry replacement for the good union manufacturing jobs that once defined opportunity in the city. This economic transformation has especially damaged Milwaukee’s Black community, resulting in extreme racial disparity.

    All of this was well documented before COVID-19. In the last two years, the underlying crisis in these jobs has been exposed and it has grown. Until we build a strong, consistent floor of better wages, more predictable hours, and stronger benefits in these jobs, the crisis will continue.

    The City of Milwaukee can help to lead this effort. In every aspect of policy, the City can seek to strengthen job quality, raise labor standards, and support and build a high-road approach to service work in the city.

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  • Aquiles-Sanchez, P., L. Dresser, A. Milewski, and J. Rogers. The State of Working Wisconsin 2022. COWS, 2022.

    In celebration of Wisconsin workers, COWS releases The State of Working Wisconsin 2022 with the most recent data available on wages, jobs, disparities, and unions to build a stronger understanding of what is going on in the state’s labor market. Released for Labor Day 2022, this year’s report also features a series of profiles highlighting stories of workers organizing across Wisconsin.

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  • Dresser, L., and W. Kahn. Toward a New Tradition in "Nontraditional Occupations". COWS, 2021.

    For decades, a handful of women have been celebrated as pioneers in construction, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution careers. Despite years of work, these occupations remain “nontraditional” for women and people of color and present unique barriers and challenges. Raising Women’s Success in Apprenticeship (RSWA) is driving systemic change to make these industries more open, accepting, and inclusive of nontraditional workers. This report summarizes the network’s work, identifies key factors of success for getting women into nontraditional jobs, and identifies the remaining challenges that will require a substantial change in policy and practice to make success for women the norm.

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  • $15 by 2025: Who Gains with a Higher Minimum Wage in Wisconsin is a short fact sheet about the demographics of who would benefit from raising the minimum wage by 2025 and how Wisconsin compares to other states on this issue.

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  • Dresser, L., A. Kanter, and J. Rogers. The State of Working Wisconsin 2021. COWS, 2021.

    Released for Labor Day 2021, the State of Working Wisconsin report focuses on how working people are doing and continues to shine a spotlight on the state’s brutal Black-white disparities.

    A project of COWS, the State of Working Wisconsin has presented the workers’ perspective on the economy in the state for more than two decades: who is winning, and who is being left out; where is disparity growing; and what’s happening to the economic chasm separating Black and white workers in the state.

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  • Dresser, L. The State of Working Wisconsin 2020. COWS, 2020.

    For the State of Working Wisconsin 2020, COWS created a digital presence to tell the story of workers in the state during COVID-19. This exciting new report shines a spotlight on the brutal Black-white disparities that define this state and provides worker profiles to crystallize the human costs of this crisis. For more than two decades, COWS’ State of Working Wisconsin has presented the workers’ perspective on the economy in the state: what’s going on with work and jobs, who is winning in this economy, and who is being left out; where is disparity growing; what’s happening to the economic chasm separating Black and white workers in the state. The SOWW 2020 website can be seen here.

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