Labor activist admits minimum-wage referendums are aimed at derailing Walker re-election


By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — It’s not about giving Democratic candidates an advantage at the polls. It’s all about giving constituents a voice on one of the most talked-about issues in the country.

IT’S NOW CLEAR: Wisconsin Jobs Now Executive Director Jennifer Epps Addison admits the goal of the nonbinding minimum wage referendums in November is to bring more liberal voters to the polls.

That’s the response of some Wisconsin public officials to the growing number of nonbinding minimum wage referendums popping up in counties and cities all over the state.

But Jennifer Epps-Addison, executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, a front group for the Service Employees International Union, told the Huffington Post in a story published Wednesday that her organization and other activists are hoping to use the referendums to entice more liberal voters to the polls in November.

And their ultimate goal? To help their Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke defeat Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has repeatedly said he doesn’t support raising the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 because of the potential of killing jobs.

“This is a really close race, and what we think will happen is that it will force the issue to become a more central theme in both of the candidates’ campaigns,” Epps-Addison told the Huffington Post. “We want to make sure that folks who are most directly affected by the level of income inequality in Wisconsin have their say at the ballot box, and that will translate to some level of political power for them.”

Wisconsin Jobs Now’s Raise Wisconsin campaign has been instrumental in circulating petitions to place advisory minimum wage referendums on ballots throughout the state, including in Milwaukee and Dane counties, Appleton, Neenah and Menasha.

It’s easy to understand why Wisconsin Jobs Now is pushing for the minimum wage. If employees receive higher wages, the SEIU and other unions will be able to collect more dues, and thus, have more political power.

But they’ll say it’s only about supporting workers, creating jobs and improving the economy, claims that economics around the country have refuted.

Maybe that’s why Wisconsin Jobs Now officials found it necessary to craft a scientific-looking report in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy on the benefits of raising the minimum wage, according to an investigation by

Emails obtained by through open records requests show that COWS Associate Director Laura Dresser, a self-described liberal activist, was receiving her marching orders from Wisconsin Jobs Now community organizer Peter Rickman, who also helped write the Milwaukee County “living wage” law that’s expected to be a boon to the SEIU.

“I’m gunning for a joint EPI/COWS report on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 – it would be part of a campaign stage-setting in calendar 2014, probably something in the first run of the legislative session” Rickman wrote in a Nov. 19, 2013, e-mail to Dresser and Economic Policy Institute analyst David Cooper.

The EPI, whose board of directors is chaired by American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations President Richard Trumka, has nearly 20 labor unions donating to its causes.