WisBusiness: Judge Upholds Madison’s Minimum Wage Law

By Gary Fisher

In a 20-page decision issued before noon today, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi upheld Madison’s minimum wage. The Main Street Coalition for Economic Growth, a group of local business owners, had sued the city in January in an effort to stop Madison’s minimum wage hike.

Sumi said the living-wage ordinance is valid because the state Legislature has not revoked municipal authority to enact a minimum wage ordinance and the ordinance complements and does not conflict with state law. Sumi said the ordinance promotes and does not defeat the legislative purpose of protecting workers from substandard wages.

“No one wants Wisconsin’s economic landscape dotted with wage islands,” Sumi said. “But a municipality’s power to enact ordinances for the welfare of its citizens is broad, even in matters of statewide concern.”

She said she was concerned that allowing local governments to set their own minimum wage standards would “Balkanize” wages throughout Wisconsin.

Sumi’s decision means that Madison’s lowest-paid workers will receive $5.70 per hour ($2.33 for tipped employees), and a gradual annual increase annually to $7.75 per hour by Jan. 1, 2008.

Gov. Jim Doyle has proposed to raise the state minimum wage in stages to $6.50 an hour. But the Republican-controlled state Senate has passed a bill that would ban cities from setting local minimum wages that exceed the state’s existing minimum of $5.15 an hour.