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From the Daily: Higher wages, better living

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published December 3, 2013

Calls to increase the minimum wage in Michigan have gained momentum over the last year. In April, Democratic lawmakers in the state's legislature introduced a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10 over a three-year period. A month later, fast-food workers across the state participated in a nationwide protest, demanding a wage increase to $15 an hour. And during his visit to Detroit on Monday, the presumed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer addressed these concerns, announcing his plan to increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 over three years. Regardless of who wins the gubernatorial race in November 2014, raising the minimum wage should be a priority for Michigan as the state attempts economic revitalization.

Since the last wage hike in 2007, Congress has allowed the national minimum wage to stagnate at an amount incapable of sufficiently supporting an individual — let alone entire families. At the current rate of $7.40 per hour, a minimum-wage worker in Michigan will earn roughly $15,000 annually — less than the $18,163 MIT estimates a single adult needs to live in Michigan. Schauer claims his initiative will aid in solving the financial struggles of the electorate. At the press conference on Monday he stated: “This is about people. It’s a measure that will help stimulate economic growth.” As low wages struggle to meet the demands of inflation, Schauer’s concern for the people and their economic welfare is refreshing for a state plagued by financial hardships.

Schauer’s initiative is not an entirely new one. Four states — California, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island — have already initiated policies to increase their minimum wage this year. California, in particular, has set the standard by planning on increasing pay to $10 per hour by 2016. While the wage hikes have been contested by Republicans, both large and small businesses support the initiative. A recent study found 70 percent of small-business owners agree with the idea of raising the minimum wage within their states — arguing an increase in wages would amplify the workers’ spending ability and, in turn, boost the economy.

Critics of raising the minimum wage argue that an increase in pay will lead to an overall decline in employment. However, as Schauer suggested, the economic boost the state will receive simply from increased spending on basic necessities will add $1 million over three years to Michigan’s economy. In those three years, Michigan will experience a net increase in jobs available — even when an increased minimum wage is factored in.

In order to remain competitive within the national economy, Michigan’s legislature needs to follow the examples of California and other states and to recognize the needs of the people. With Detroit still in a precarious state and a substantial number of residents struggling to bypass the poverty line, raising the minimum wage is a viable solution.


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