Minimum Wage: what is a 'livable' pay?

Work Centre : The unemployed looking for a job
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(WEAU)--Fast-food workers are protesting for better wages this week in cities across the country, including Milwaukee.
The protesters are pushing for the minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $15. At a protest in New York City one protestor told the associated press they ‘can’t live on $7.25.’

“In all reality minimum wage of $8 or $9 would probably fit the bill a little more,” said Eau Claire County Workforce Coordinator Dan Lytle.

Wisconsin is one of 22 states that’s minimum wage is at $7.25, which is line with the federal wage guideline. Lytle says the guideline is formulated looking at the cost of living and inflation.

Now if you do the math, a person working fulltime at minimum wage makes just over $15,000 a year.

Elicia Kupper knows the minimum wage struggle well.

“I worked in a restaurants most of my life,” Kupper said.

Kupper says she loves being a server. But as a single mother she says the money she brings in serving doesn't pay the bills. So Kupper says she is searching for a second job to help make ends meet.

Workforce Coordinator Dan Lytle says the 2008/2009 economic downturn created the perfect work force storm. He says not only did companies have to downsize and cut back but it left many workers underemployed or having to work longer before retirement.

“We have a struggle know between a couple demographics that we see a lot in Eau Claire, more baby boomers are working themselves out of the workforce and the young people between the ages of 14-22 are trying to work themselves in,” Lytle said.

Express employment agency in Eau Claire places workers with employers in everything from manufacturing to retail.

“I would say wages have stayed pretty steady, unfortunately when the recession hit employers cut back a lot and now that it’s coming back people are still a little nervous,” Express Staffing Manager Brooke Christianson said.

Christianson says the good news is many employers in western Wisconsin are paying above minimum wage. She says many jobs they place people in start out in the $9-12 ranges. But she says like the economy the job market is still recovering.