Wisconsin Bans Local Wage and Hour Laws

Commentary & Community

Wisconsin Bans Local Wage and Hour Laws



Across the nation, city and county governments are passing laws that regulate how employers pay their employees or what benefits they provide. In Wisconsin, however, these local governments recently lost their power to enact such ordinances.


In mid-April, Governor Scott Walker signed legislation that pre-empts local authority to regulate employee wages and hour. The bill to do this passed 58 to 32 in the Assembly and 18 to 14 in the Senate. Governor Walker is a Republican, and both of the legislative bodies are controlled by Republicans.


This act prohibits local governments from doing the following:

  • Imposing mandatory “labor peace agreements,” which are requirements that businesses enter into agreements with unions as a condition for doing government work
  • Regulating employee hour and overtime
  • Regulating employment benefits
  • Prohibiting employers from asking job candidates their past salary information


Nationwide, local proposals to increase the minimum wage or mandate paid sick leave generally occur in cities led by liberal leadership but located in states that have a conservative state government. The actions of local officials in this area often prompt a backlash from state officials, such as was seen in Wisconsin. Local governments have no inherent authority to regulate these areas; states can pre-empt any efforts by cities or counties to pass laws on this subject.


Supporters of these pre-emption laws say that they are necessary to provide uniform labor laws across the state. They contend that a patchwork of local labor laws makes it difficult for businesses to operate. Opponents of the state pre-empting local government labor regulations say that cities and counties should have the power to adopt laws that meet needs in their jurisdiction, which may be different from what works in other jurisdictions across the state.


Do you think that Wisconsin cities should be able to enact laws, such as a higher minimum wage, than what state law allows? Or should there be uniform wage and labor laws that apply across Wisconsin?



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