Wisconsin Center District sets $15 per hour minimum wage

New wage standard effective July 1

Marty Brooks, CEO of the Wisconsin Center District
Marty Brooks, CEO of the Wisconsin Center District

Last updated on February 28th, 2020 at 04:43 pm

All Wisconsin Center District employees will make at least $15 per hour, effective July 1.

Marty Brooks, president and chief executive of WCD, which owns and operates the Wisconsin Center and other downtown event venues, announced the policy change Thursday morning.

Per the new standard, employees who are making up to $18.50 an hour will receive no less than a $1.50 per-hour pay increase. Anyone making below $15 an hour will get either a $1.50 increase or a raise that puts them up to the new $15 minimum, whichever is greater.

The new standard benefits about 200 employees, Brooks told members of the WCD Finance & Personnel Committee. According to a news release, this amounts to 65% of district employees.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Brooks said. “We believe it puts us in a competitive light with other (similar) employers.”

Brooks said the new minimum wage rate is not reflected in the district’s 2020 budget. However, the savings WCD has seen through unfilled salaried positions this year would “more than offset” the pay increase for hourly employees, he said.

WCD is the latest Milwaukee-area employer to boost its minimum wage standards for employees. The standard is similar to the one set for Fiserv Forum workers. Madison-based American Family Insurance announced in January it was increasing the minimum wage of its employees to $20 an hour. The insurance company currently has an office in Pewaukee, and plans to bring 400 jobs to downtown Milwaukee.

The announcement comes as WCD officials and consultants are drafting plans to expand the downtown convention center. That project is expected to break ground in spring 2021. Brooks said the project design team will present renderings and other details when the WCD Board of Directors meet next week.

WCD benefiting from election season

Officials also discussed at Thursday’s meeting the extra business that WCD received from a January rally for President Donald Trump. The event filled the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena to its 12,700-person capacity.

Steve Marsh, WCD senior vice president and chief financial officer, said that event generated “meaningful (food and beverage) sales related to the Trump rally.” This essentially amounts to bonus revenue that wasn’t anticipated by WCD when planning out the fiscal year.

More is in store for WCD facilities this year, not the least of which is the Democratic National Convention in July.

Brooks noted the district is “expecting the possibility of another rally of sorts” this year. He didn’t go into further details.

Of course, the facilities will also be heavily used during the DNC. The convention hall is expected to be used for caucuses and a media compound. But final plans for all facilities have still not been confirmed. Brooks said he expects a decision from DNC “within the next two or three weeks.”

He also said that each week, two or three different DNC-related groups visit the district facilities.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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