The concept of the minimum wage stretches back over a hundred years in this country. Wisconsin jumped on the bandwagon early and has a rich history with wage and hour laws. From the meager beginnings of 22 cents an hour, to today’s talks of a $15 an hour payout, the rules governing payments to employees have certainly evolved over the last century. 

While Wisconsin does not have the honor of being the first state to set a payment standard — that one goes to Massachusetts — they did join the seven other states just one year later in the year 1913. Employees enjoyed 10 years of earnings protections until the Supreme Court ruled all minimum wage laws unconstitutional in 1923. The Dairy State continued to offer protections against oppressively low rates, and the Supreme Court eventually reversed their opinion on earned income in 1937.

The state continually reassessed standards of living and funded studies that helped them assess a proper minimum income for individuals. The last living wage assessment was completed in 1967, and that study recommended that the Industrial Commission use the federal Consumer Price Index to determine what would be fair. The approach was implemented through the 1970s, but salaries have not kept pace with inflation since the 1990s. 

The history of wage and hour laws in Wisconsin is quite an interesting study. Today, some members of Congress continue to work toward ways to increase the standard of living for the lowest paid workers. Workers in the state are guaranteed a minimum hourly pay, and any person who does not receive that payment has the right to file a claim. An employment law attorney can be a helpful guide for individuals who have been a victim of unlawful employers. 

Source: lacrossetribune.com, “Vinehout: Wisconsin’s long journey toward a living wage“, Kathleen Vinehout, Aug. 31, 2017