Wisconsin Pushing for Slave-Wage Labor Force

Sen. Glenn Grothman has his feet held to the fire during public testimony.

Sen. Glenn Grothman has his feet held to the fire during public testimony on SB 626.

March 6, 2014 by Nicole Desautels

Citizens showed up in droves March 3 to testify against SB 626, an anti-living wage bill introduced by Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield). The bill prohibits living wage ordinances in any city, village, town or county which receives state funds.

Highlights from the hearing:

“We just want it to be fair.”

A security guard for the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, who makes $8.50 an hour working the third shift full-time with no benefits, testified:

“My job is very dangerous. We’ve got people coming in with drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness. … They strike out at any given time. We get spit on, we get feces thrown at us.

“We’re not here asking for a handout. We’re not asking to get rich. At the end of the day, we just want to be able to come to the game and play along with everyone else. We just want it to be fair.”

He added, “We just want to be able … to come home, and our kids see the hard work that we’re doing … and they want to follow in our footsteps, not follow behind the drug dealers.”

Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex security guard:


This is “legalized bribery.”

“Stop doing the bidding of corporate interests who seek to undermine our democracy through a legalized system of bribery. … Supportive Home Care Options boss Sally Sprenger … gave nearly $50,000 to GOP politicians in the last year, including several thousand dollars in legal bribes to a member of this committee — Sen. Leah Vukmir. Sally Sprenger has donated more to Republicans in the last year than most of her workers could earn in more than three years.” (Note: Sprenger, who spoke in favor of a ban on living wage ordinances and pays her employees poverty wages, twice declined to make her own salary public.)

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Executive Director, Wisconsin Jobs Now:


“We are our brothers’ keepers.”

“I get a little confused when I listen to the author describing the bill, because what this bill does is it preempts ordinances that provide a living wage, unless you separate out the dollars. You can’t separate out those dollars. Human services are funded through federal, state, local levy. You can’t separate that out. … Yes, it will take $4 an hour out of the pockets of people who care for the most vulnerable members of our society. And then, we can leave it to them to figure out how they’re going to go home and pay their rent … how are they going to put food on the table?”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi:


“Is it socialism to give them a living wage?”

Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison): “Throwing out the [living wage] ordinance, so if someone says, ‘Well, I don’t have to pay that,’ and we don’t have any new money coming in, we’ll go down to the minimum wage, that’s a $4 an hour cut to those people who are working in the Family Care program, right?”

Kapenga: “In that position, if whoever’s in charge of the contract, they want to lower it because in this position they can get a qualified person, and they can pay them less, then at that point that employee will have to make the decision, because we are employed ‘at will’ here in the United States. We’re not socialists, and we don’t give everybody in their position, ‘And you know what, here’s a life guarantee’ if they choose they cannot do the —”

Risser: “Is it socialism to give them a living wage?”

Kapenga: “If an employee cannot make ends meet on whatever the pay cut would be, if they choose to drop the pay for the position, that employee will have to decide if they have to look elsewhere for something else.”

Sen. Fred Risser and Rep. Chris Kapenga:


Risser: “The federal minimum wage is $7.25? Is that correct?”

Kapenga: “You’ll have to check with [the Legislative Council] on that.”

The co-authors of SB 626, Kapenga and Grothman, speak at length about their libertarian ideology while showing their ignorance about the most basic facts of the matter, including the federal minimum wage rate.

Sen. Fred Risser and Rep. Chris Kapenga:


“The people who introduced [this bill] should be ashamed of themselves.”

“I think that this piece of legislation is one of the pettiest, cheapest, cruelest, most venal, cold-hearted and mean-spirited pieces of legislation that was ever confronted before the Wisconsin State Legislature. The people who introduced it should be ashamed of themselves. I hope you all consign it to the deepest hole of hell where it will only see the light of day if we ever decide that we don’t really want to be a society that gives a damn about its individual citizens.”

Richard Russell, retired state analyst and Madison’s “most prolific commenter”:

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3 Comments on “Wisconsin Pushing for Slave-Wage Labor Force”

  1. Laura Chern March 6, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    I am so glad to hear someone calling MKE the economic engine of the state.

  2. Ted Due Process Voth Jr. March 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    Whats his name? ‘Piss Crapenga?’ Oh, sorry, that was unworthy: appropriate, but unworthy…

  3. Ted Due Process Voth Jr. March 6, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    Seriously, WCMC, another bang-up job, as usual. You are almost the last living journalists in Wississippi. Keep it up!!! ❤

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