A controversial labor organization has gained traction throughout the United States, and it may soon bring significant changes to Wisconsin’s minimum wage laws. Led by the Service Employees International Union, the Fight for $15 movement has the goal of setting a national minimum wage of at least $15 per hour, or $31,200 per year. The federal minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 an hour, which comes to $15,080 a year.

Proponents of the movement say that a wage lower than $15 per hour prevents workers from providing food, medical care and other necessities for their families. Opponents say that a $15 minimum wage is implausible for business owners and could cost unskilled laborers their jobs.

National success

A $15 minimum wage once seemed unattainable, but the campaign has found widespread grassroots support from labor unions and workers’ rights groups. As a result of the group’s lobbying, several cities and states have adopted a $15 minimum wage. Seattle, for example, will soon raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, as will California, Massachusetts and New York.

Other states, including Minnesota, Colorado and Washington, raised their minimum wages to $9.86, $12 and $13.50, respectively. Twenty-nine states total have minimum wages higher than the federal limit.

What this means for Wisconsin

Currently, Wisconsin adheres to the $7.25 federal minimum wage. The state’s Republican-led legislature is largely against a major increase. Still, there have been grassroots efforts in favor of a $15 minimum wage. According to the Fight for $15 campaign, 44 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce—over 1.2 million people—make less than $15 an hour.

Adequate pay is one of several wage and hour issues that the state’s workers face. Some workers find that to receive adequate compensation, they must take legal action against their employers, either as individuals or as a group.