Michigan Moves to Raise Minimum Wage

minimum wage michiganEarlier this week, Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill raising Michigan’s minimum wage by 25% over the next four years to $9.25 an hour. Meanwhile, Republicans controlling the state government moved to block a November ballot measure that would have increased the wage rate even more. Michigan’s current minimum wage is $7.40 per hour.

The Michigan House and Senate jointly approved the bill on Tuesday, just one day prior to the date when a group of labor and community organizers planned to submit a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures demanding a state ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hourly.

A higher minimum wage is backed by President Obama and national Democrats, who have embraced the minimum wage as a major platform issue this election year. Snyder is one of the Governors up for re-election in the fall, along with many other key Michigan legislators.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Michigan ranks as the first state with a Republican-led legislature to raise its minimum wage this year. Other Democratic-controlled states raised their minimum wages, including Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota and West Virginia. Vermont’s legislature also passed a bill for the increase, although it has not yet been signed into law by the governor.

As Snyder explained at a press conference yesterday, “This was a great exercise in bipartisanship and both chambers working together in close partnership, coming up with an agreement and executing on that. It’s good for the hard-working people of Michigan.”

As the minimum wage debate has resurfaced over the past year, many restaurant chains and other low-wage industries have argued that pay increases will hurt business profits, triggering closures and layoffs.  The Michigan Restaurant Association, National Federation of Independent Business and other business groups have repeated the same argument, although the Republican governor insists that the measure is “economically sound.”

The bill was passed 76-34 by the Michigan House and 24-12 by the Senate. Nearly half of Republicans in the Legislature voted for it, along with most all Democrats. A handful of Democrats explained that they had voted no because the bill shut out voters who signed the wage petition for an even higher rate.

Republican Representative Peter Pettalia, said “I’m going to do this with a heavy heart because I don’t believe government has a place adjusting wage in our society.” Yet he went on to clarify, “I step up and support this bill because the alternative is terrible. The proposals that are in front of us outside of Senate Bill 934 will lose many more jobs in northern Michigan.”

The new regulations include a provision that increases the minimum wage annually with inflation by up to 3.5%, beginning in 2019. The legislation also boosts wages for employees who receive tips to 38% of the minimum wage, up from the current $2.65 to $3.52 per hour.

As reported in the Associated Press, “raising the minimum wage was set to be a hot topic in Snyder’s race against Democratic governor candidate Mark Schauer. The bill is very similar to Schauers’ proposal from November to raise the wage to $9.25 over three years and tie it to inflation.”

The minimum wage controversy is certainly familiar to Seattle residents, and has implications for larger debates about workers’ rights, compensation for work injuries, denied L&I claims, and other employment law matters. The experienced Workers Compensation Attorneys at Emery Reddy represent workers’ interests throughout Washington State. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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