The Court of Claims restored two public acts (P.A. 368 and P.A. 369) from 2018 that sought to raise the minimum wage and increase paid sick leave on Tuesday. Judge Douglas Shapiro’s Mothering Justice v. Dana Nessel (2022) opinion reinstates the acts in their original form, removing amendments put in place in 2018, increasing the current $9.87 minimum wage in the state of Michigan to $12 an hour, with the tipped minimum wage increasing from $3.75 to $9.60.
One Fair Wage is a national coalition of service workers which sponsored the minimum wage initiative, while the MI Time to Care coalition backed the paid sick leave initiative. One Fair Wage president Saru Jayaraman said the restoration is a victory for minimum wage advocates in a statement.
“Workers have been fighting this subminimum wage, which has been a source of sexual harassment and racial inequity, for decades …,” Jayaraman said. “Today, the courts in Michigan vindicated the rights of these millions of workers, and millions of voters, to demand that workers in Michigan be paid a full, livable wage with tips on top.”
In Sept. 2018, two ballot initiatives, one for increasing the minimum wage to $12 and another mandating paid sick leave for employees, were passed to the state legislature after receiving 400,000 signatures from Michigan voters.
Rather than passing the initiatives as they were, then-governor Rick Snyder and the Republican-led legislature preemptively adopted the two initiatives and went on to pass other bills that weakened them.
Known as the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act, this state law initially adopted the original petition’s demands for the minimum wage to rise to $12 by January 2022 with adjustments for inflation. However, it was later amended to increase minimum wage to $12.05 by 2030 instead with no adjustments for inflation.
The Earned Sick Time Act initially adopted the MI Time to Care initiative’s demands to require businesses with at least 10 employees to provide up to 72 hours of annual paid sick leave for workers. Snyder went on to amend the Earned Sick Time Act to require businesses with at least 50 employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave rather than 72.
The amendments made to both acts drew criticism from supporters of the initiatives, with Attorney General Dana Nessel calling it “unconstitutional.”
Because the legislature adopted the two ballot initiatives into law in Sept. 2018, these initiatives were not on the ballot during the 2018 midterm elections, despite having qualified for the ballot. If the initiatives had made the ballot, amendments to original demands from the proposal would need a three-fourths majority vote rather than a simple majority.
In the 2022 opinion, Judge Shapiro wrote that he did not approve of the strategy that the Republican legislature used to “adopt and amend” the initiative petitions and that the holding back of the minimum wage initiatives violated the Articles 2 and 9 of the 1963 Michigan Constitution.
“The Court concludes that the adopt-and-amend process the Legislature used to enact 2018 PA 368 and 2018 PA 369 violated Article 2, § 9 of the Michigan Constitution,” the opinion reads. “Once the Legislature adopted the Earned Sick Time Act and the Improved Workforce Opportunity Act, it could not amend the laws within the same legislative session. To hold otherwise would effectively thwart the power of the People to initiate laws and then vote on those same laws—a power expressly reserved to the people in the Michigan Constitution.”
In a statement, Nessel said she supported Shapiro’s decision.
“This order is a victory for the residents of Michigan whose efforts to bring an issue before their elected representatives were wrongly circumvented by the Legislature in 2018,” Nessel wrote. “The actions undertaken by the legislature in 2018 denied the will of the people and distorted the purpose of Michigan’s citizens initiative process. This is a victory for Michiganders and for democracy.”
Shapiro’s ruling ordered that the initiated acts be restored immediately and that the amendments made post-election were no longer in effect. The decision is subject to appeal, though it is currently unclear whether the ruling will be appealed.
Summer News Editor Nirali Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.