State legislature will consider raising minimum wage to $12 an hour, will keep measure off ballot

Thursday, September 6, 2018 - 12:28pm

The Michigan legislature voted today to adopt a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour.

The Michigan legislature voted today to adopt a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour. Buy this photo
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The Michigan legislature voted today to adopt a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour, eliminate the tipped minimum wage and allow workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  

The Michigan Senate voted to adopt the proposal Wednesday and the Michigan House followed suit Thursday. The decision to adopt means the issues will no longer have the chance to appear on the Nov. ballot, leaving some Michigan residents worried the Republican-led legislature only adopted the proposal to amend it.

Democratic representatives, who are generally in favor of the policies, wanted the proposals on the ballot, warning that Republican representatives will only dismantle them in a process known as “adopt-and-amend.” Though no Republicans voiced support for any of the policies during debate, State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, was one of three Republicans who voted against adopting the proposals, saying adopt-to-amend is a “procedural gimmick.”

“That’s not how we should be doing things,” Colbeck told The Detroit News. “We should be debating the merits.”

Public Policy junior Katie Kelly, communications director of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats, expressed similar concerns. Though she supports the policies, she worries about Republican legislators gutting the initiatives in their lame-duck session later this year.

“The voters should be the ones to pass these initiatives, not those who do not have the public’s best interests at heart,” Kelly said. “This is simply a ploy by the Republicans to take this initiative off the ballot and amend the laws after the election to suit their own interests.”

Republican legislators have not made any comment on whether or not they intend to amend the proposals, but Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, said the legislature needs to have a say in what is in them.

“Both of these citizens-initiated laws were poorly written,” Leonard said, according to The Detroit News.

Some Democratic legislators voted against the proposals to avoid the “adopt-and-amend” procedure, even though they agreed with the policies themselves. State Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, said the adoption outcome was “a trick on the voters of Michigan, an attack on democracy,” according to The Detroit News.

If the proposals are not amended, the Michigan One Fair Wage initiative would raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022 and include tipped workers by 2024. Currently, a “tip credit” allows employers to pay workers who are tipped as low as $3.38 an hour.

Tips are expected to make up the difference between the $3.38 wage and the minimum wage for workers who aren’t tipped, which is $9.25 an hour. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers make up any other differences, but enforcement is said to be so relaxed, the One Fair Wage website calls wage theft an “epidemic.”

Allowing tipped workers to earn full minimum wage would have huge effects on women and people of color. Studies from Cornell University have shown that Black workers earn less than white counterparts, and perceived attractiveness plays a large role in how much women get tipped. More than 7 in 10 tipped workers in Michigan are women, and the poverty rate among women who work for tips is 20.8 percent. The poverty rate for women of color who work for tips is 27.1 percent.

The Michigan Restaurant Association frequently opposes minimum wage increases and paid sick leave, and said the proposal will increase costs by 241 percent and eliminate 14,000 restaurant jobs in the state. The MRA also argues employees like the tipping credit system –– according to Upserve, 97 percent of servers prefer the tip credit system.

If the proposal becomes law, Michigan would become the eighth state to not use a tip credit.

The University’s chapter of College Republicans did not respond immediately to requests for comment.