Eau Claire County to Lose its Living Wage Law

State lawmakers have taken away Eau Claire County’s ability to require companies to pay their workers more than minimum wage for contracts performed on behalf of the county.

The county’s Administration Committee is scheduled during its 2:30 p.m. Thursday meeting at the courthouse to discuss a proposal to repeal the county’s “living wage” ordinance.

That local law, which was approved in July 2016 by the County Board and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, required contractors to pay workers a salary equal or greater to the federal poverty level for a family of four. For 2017, that meant $11.68 an hour, compared to the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Contracts impacted by the ordinance primarily perform work on behalf of the county’s Human Services Department.

Act 327, which was approved in March by the state Legislature and signed April 17 by Gov. Scott Walker, eliminated the state statute that allowed local governments to set a minimum wage for their contracts that are performed by companies.

A memo from county attorney Keith Zehms stated that the state’s action won’t change contracts signed while the local living wage ordinance has been in effect, but the county cannot enter new contracts with the living wage requirement.

Also in his memo, Zehms said the fiscal impact of repealing the living wage ordinance is unknown as businesses have been increasing pay anyway to remain competitive in the local job market.

After the Administration Committee makes its recommendation on repealing the local living wage ordinance, the County Board would then have the final vote.