In his union food service job on the UW-Madison campus, Corey Larson makes almost twice the state minimum wage, but at $13.50 an hour he has trouble paying his $500-a-month rent.

“I have student debt that I struggle to pay, health care that I can’t afford to use, and despite cooking food 40 hours a week for a so-called living, I find myself eating ramen noodles almost every other week,” Larson, 28, told the Dane County Board Thursday.

After two hours of testimony from the public, the board voted to put a referendum question on the November ballot that the state of Wisconsin increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Thirty-three of the 37 board members sponsored the measure, which lead sponsor Carousel Andrea Bayrd said is the first step toward getting a $15 minimum wage, which many of the speakers who packed the board’s chambers Thursday advocated.

“This is not a watering down. This is the first step to establish a local Dane County minimum wage of $15,” Bayrd said.

Sup. Al Matano made a motion to up the dollar amount to $15, but that amendment failed.

“It’s not just this county board,” said Peter Rickman, a labor and community organizer with Wisconsin Jobs Now. “Cities and counties across the state are doing the same thing. Across the country they are going to $10.10 or higher.”

After President Barack Obama’s push for an increase in the federal minimum wage stalled in Congress, a number of cities and states have raised their minimum wages, and many speakers Thursday night referenced Seattle, which this month voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest in the country.

San Francisco is poised to do the same. New York state could raise its minimum wage, too, if its legislature gives the go-ahead.

Wisconsin’s current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. With that wage, a full-time worker with a 40-hour-a-week job earns $15,080 a year.

A 2014 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed that to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Dane County, a person must earn $14.27 an hour, nearly double the state’s hourly minimum wage.

Sup. John Hendrick said the referendum question is a good idea because it will let people express themselves.

“I’m confident that people in Dane County would feel this is a very minimal wage, but we should have a $10.10 minimum wage,” he said.

Larson, at $13.50, is not among the state’s lowest-paid workers. His cafeteria job brings in more than the referendum question is advocating., and he says the $10.10 resolution doesn’t go far enough fast enough.

A La Follette High School graduate who attended UW-Platteville and Madison Area Technical College but didn’t graduate, Larson is a member of AFSCME Local 171, which represents blue-collar, technical and security employees at UW-Madison.

“The idea that I could ever raise a family in this union job, I feel, is laughable,” he said.

  • Reporter and restaurant reviewer

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It's a non-binding referendum question that Milwaukee has decide to add to the ballot as well because liberals are convinced this is the only way to energize their base into actually getting to the polls in November..................... This is great news. It means liberals are scared to death of November and are willing to try anything to get out the vote. Desperation will eventually lead to illegal activity by liberals as history has repeatedly shown......Looks like Mary Burke is bordering on a slander lawsuit filed by Governor Walker as she has commercialized her slanderous satanic lies in the public forum.


Funny isn't it? When the only illegal voting activity found was by multiple votes being cast for Walker and friends in the re-call.


This is a great idea! Thank you to great leaders like Carousel Bayrd for doing the right thing


Yup, thanks Carousel Bayrd for figuring out a way to get your lazy a$$ voters off their butts to go vote.


I am sure a lot of people will see $15.00 and scream on that outrageous amount. Unfortunately it is expensive to live in Madison and Dane county compared to surrounding counties. At the same time will someone pushing a broom get paid the same as a low level technician? Unfortunately the wage is not going to be applied according to what a job is worth. Unfortunately many private employers aren't willing to pay decent wages and benefits This has a lot to do with the income gap that has been expanding at an alarming rate recently.

There are a number of neighborhoods in Dane county with many homes in the $400,000 plus range. The people who are buying these must have a wage in excess of $100,000 to afford that type of expensive housing. Some people are living well but a large majority are scrapping bye. Something to think about.