State minimum wage increases in 2017, Ann Arbor wages mostly unaffected

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Ava Weiner/Daily

 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017 - 7:24pm

Ringing in the new year brought good news for employees throughout Michigan when the state minimum wage increased by 40 cents — from $8.50 to $8.90 per hour — as a part of the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act.

The state bill, which passed in 2014, aims to gradually increase Michigan’s minimum wage from the 2014 rate of $7.40 an hour to $9.25 by the beginning of 2018. With the current increase to $8.90, Michigan has the 15th-highest state minimum wage in the country, according to the Detroit News.

Stagnating wages were a theme of the recent presidential election, with one in every five Americans worried about wage reduction, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. President-elect Donald Trump has said he supports an hourly minimum wage of $10, but thinks states should decide what exact number it should be set at, CNN reported.

Minimum wage in 18 other states also rose on Jan. 1, 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Students employed through the University of Michigan generally make above the state minimum wage. Many jobs such as University dining hall positions, pay students hourly starting wages of $9.40 to $13.40.

LSA freshman Kelly Wester predicted the increase would benefit students already saddled with fees. 

"Most of my things went towards things I needed for school, so any increase in wages would've definitely helped me out," she said. "It may seem small but I think the cumulative impact of a minimum wage increase can make a huge difference in the life of a worker." 

According to the Student Employment Office database, there were 3,151 University and non-University job openings for students as of Wednesday evening. Furthermore, as of November 2016, Ann Arbor has a 3 percent unemployment rate, below Michigan’s 4.9 percent rate. The wage curve theory suggests that because of this surplus of jobs and low unemployment, wages in Ann Arbor tend to be higher.

Many non-University employers in Ann Arbor like Starbucks Coffee also offer pay above the minimum wage. Eric Kurtz, a supervisor at the Starbucks in the Ross School of Business, said student workers at the chain would most likely not be affected by the minimum wage increase.

“(The minimum wage increase) is not going to be that big of an impact, because a lot of our students get hired in at around the $9.50- to $10-an-hour rate anyways,” Kurtz said. “When you have to talk to the public as much and be as skilled as you do at some of these jobs, you come in at a little bit higher rate.”

Engineering sophomore Jason Wozniak works as an entrance monitor at the Michigan Union, and agreed with Kurtz's assessment. Wozniak did not foresee any incremental increase impacting his long-term income, as he does not expect to work many minimum wage jobs in the future.   

"I'm no expert in economics, but I don't see this affecting me in the immediate future since I already make above $8.90/hour," he said.