Bucks commit to living wage for employees in 2017

Up to 1,000 employees will be paid $12 an hour increasing to $15 an hour in 2023

Rendering of Milwaukee Bucks Arena in downtown Milwaukee

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

The Milwaukee Bucks committed to paying its employees a living wage of $12 per hour starting in 2017 and increasing it to $15 per hour by 2023.

The team, which has partnered with the Alliance for Good Jobs, will also enact a first source hiring program that will require at least 50 percent of covered employees in the arena district to reside (at the time of hire) in specified Milwaukee zip codes that are particularly hard hit by unemployment or underemployment.

Rendering of Milwaukee Bucks Arena in downtown Milwaukee
Rendering of Milwaukee Bucks Arena in downtown Milwaukee

“Our ownership group has never wavered in its commitment to not only build a world-class arena, but to create jobs and drive economic growth in a truly meaningful way for the Milwaukee community,” said Bucks President Peter Feigin.

The state’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Feigin said about 800 people are currently working on the arena project and he expects about 1,000 people will be working on the first phase of the project. The Bucks are planning a groundbreaking ceremony on June 18 for the 714,000-square-foot arena, which is scheduled to open in fall 2018.

The arena complex will also include a 55,000-square-foot training center and a parking structure that will include mixed-use components, including 10,000 square feet of retail space along Juneau Avenue and 11,000 square feet of office space along McKinley Avenue.

The living wage agreement was a provision in state legislation that earmarks $250 million in public funds for the sports facility.  The Milwaukee Bucks will pay for the rest of the arena, which currently is expected to cost $524 million.

State Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said the first step was making sure the taxpayers were taken care of, after that, the next most important priority was labor.

“We wanted to make absolutely certain these would be good paying jobs, they would be family supporting jobs, and they would hire from the communities that generally have difficulty finding jobs,” Barca said.

Peter Rickman, Alliance for Good Jobs representative, said the agreement demonstrates how labor, community organizations and business can work collaboratively to address Milwaukee’s good jobs crisis.

“This comprehensive landmark agreement establishes a community standard in Milwaukee for good, family-supporting jobs, and ensures that they are filled by our people who need them the most,” Rickman said.

At the end of 2015, there were more Milwaukee residents that had jobs than any year since 2001. But still, many people in the city live in poverty because of low wage jobs, said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

“I know this is an agreement between two private parties, and we applaud that, but there is something bigger going on here,” Barrett said. “It takes leadership like we are seeing from the Milwaukee Bucks today, who are saying, we respect people who work.”

Feigin said it would be a great after effect if other employers decided to change the economy by increasing the amount of money they paid their employees, but that is not why the Bucks decided to do this.

“We’re a business that is a core service business. We obviously feel our business grows on the satisfaction of the customers that are being served,” Feigin said.

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