LANSING – Michigan One Fair Wage left itself a substantial cushion in submitting petitions Monday that would put a $12 minimum wage before the Legislature and likely on the November ballot.
The group argued its move was a win for workers, but opponents were quick to argue it would mean job, and potentially business, losses.
The current state minimum wage is $9.25 per hour — $3.52 per hour for tipped employees. While both are tied to inflation and will keep rising, it is the initiative’s language to eventually bring the tipped minimum wage to the same level as the regular minimum wage that has especially alarmed the business community, especially the restaurant industry.
Officials with Michigan One Fair Wage said they had submitted 373,507 signatures to the Bureau of Elections for review. An initiative petition requires 252,523 valid signatures to be certified. The Legislature then has 40 days to adopt the proposal or it goes to the ballot.
“We will have the chance to lift wages for more than 1 million workers and more than 400,000 children will be positively impacted,” Alicia Renee Ferris, chair of the campaign, said at a media event to turn in the signatures. “Together, we’re saying it’s time to create a change. … It’s time to create a pathway to a living wage.”
Tracy Pease, a server from Hazel Park, said the current system leaves her with too much uncertainty. “I can never know how much money I’ll make on any given day or any given week,” she said. “There’s a myth out there that every server makes a great living wage on tips.”
Ferris said the arguments that the proposal would mean job losses in the state is a fear tactic. “Some of them want to continue to take home their $1 million bonuses,” she said.
Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business-Michigan, said his group conducted a study that showed the proposal would cost the state 183,000 jobs and some $76 billion in economic output.
Sixty-two percent of the forecast job losses are jobs that would have been in the small business sector of the economy,” Owens said.
The Michigan Restaurant Association said its studies show 14,000 server jobs would be lost if the proposal is enacted.
“The restaurant industry is proud of its unassailable reputation as an industry of first opportunities and second chances and the Michigan Restaurant Association will continue to fight to ensure those opportunities remain for those that need them most,” Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant Association, said in a statement.
Winslow said restaurant workers in Maine were able to get similar legislation overturned because it had meant earnings reductions for them.
Owens said NFIB is urging the Legislature to act on the proposal so future amendments could be done by majority votes in the House and Senate, rather than the three-fourths majority required in both houses for initiatives adopted by voters.
The Legislature could conceivably adopt the proposal – and then swiftly repeal it or water it down.
Or the Legislature could approve a competing proposal for the November ballot.
Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt), said unless and until the Board of State Canvassers certifies the proposal has sufficient valid signatures, the speaker would have no comment.
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.