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Labor group suing Wisconsin Governor Walker to raise minimum wage

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[October 28, 2014]  By Jonathan Stempel
 (Reuters) - A labor group in Wisconsin on Monday said it is suing Gov. Scott Walker to force him to raise the state's minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The group, Wisconsin Jobs Now, said the rate is too low, citing a state law requiring that workers be paid a "living wage," or an amount with which they can pay for basic needs.

It accused Walker, a Republican running for re-election on Nov. 4, of relying on a study by a major campaign contributor opposing an increase, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, to justify keeping the minimum wage low.

"Gov. Walker has put the special interests over the needs of working families," Jennifer Epps-Addison, executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, said on a conference call with reporters.

The lawsuit seeks a finding that $7.25 per hour is not a living wage, and to force Walker to convene a commission to determine a new minimum.

A copy of the complaint was not immediately available. The complaint is being filed on Monday in the Dane County Circuit Court in Madison, the state's capital, the group said.

Walker's office referred a request for comment to the state's Department of Workforce Development.

John Dipko, a spokesman for that department, said his office will review the lawsuit after it is filed.

"Most of the complainants who are arguing the minimum wage is not a living wage are making more than the minimum wage up to $15.07 an hour," he added.

Wisconsin law defines a living wage as compensation that is "sufficient" for workers to have "reasonable comfort, reasonable physical well-being, decency, and moral well-being."

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On Oct. 6, the Department of Workforce Development rejected a call by Wisconsin Jobs Now and 100 workers for a higher minimum wage, saying it found "no reasonable cause" to believe the workers' wages were not a living wage.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Wisconsin last month was one of 19 U.S. states whose minimum wage was the same as the federal minimum. Three states had a lower minimum, and five states had no minimum.

Walker's Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Mary Burke, has advocated raising the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over two years.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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