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Detroit Representative calls for minimum wage increase

Detroit Representative calls for minimum wage increase

Article courtesy MIRS News Service

Fresh off of a victory in the U.S. House -- which voted 231-199 recently to bump the minimum wage to $15 per hour -- U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) called last week for the pay rate to go even higher.

"When we started it, it should have been $15," she said at an event in support of One Fair Wage, the group that petitioned last year to push Michigan's minimum wage to $12. "Now I think it should be $20, and make sure America Rising hears that. It should be $20 an hour, $18 to $20 an hour. Milk has gone up. Eggs have gone up. Everything has gone up."

America Rising, a Republican political action committee that does opposition research on Democrats, immediately obliged by posting the video on Twitter.

One Fair Wage, the ballot proposal group that successfully led the citizens initiative to create a $12 minimum wage in Michigan last year, applauded Rep. Tlaib's call for a minimum wage increase.

Pete Vargas, organizing director for Restaurant Opportunities Center Michigan and campaign manager for One Fair Wage, said, "We applaud Congresswoman Tlaib for being a champion for raising the minimum wage." But he said they haven't seen the details of her plan.

Asked by MIRS if his organization would support efforts to push the minimum wage to that level, or whether it is too far too fast, Vargas responded: "This is our response for now, thanks. We have consistently supported efforts to raise the minimum wage and help low-income workers become independent, and we will continue to do so. We commend Rep. Tlaib for her bold leadership on this issue and we look forward to working with her in the future to eliminate the sub-minimum wage and increase the minimum wage for all Michigan workers."

In speaking at a Detroit event, Tlaib criticized the federal minimum for tipped workers, which is $2.13 per hour.

"People cannot live on those kinds of wages. And I can't allow people to be living off of tips, relying on tip wages or whatever they call it, tip income. It is just not enough to support our families," she said.

Vargas was supportive in reaction today.

"We have supported increasing the minimum wage to $12 in Michigan and the federal push to increase it to $15, and we will continue to support efforts to help low-income families exit poverty by increasing the minimum wage," he said. "However, raising the minimum wage is only one part of the equation. It's vital that whatever solution we come up with also eliminates the sub-minimum wage so we can ensure Michigan workers aren't relying on tips to make ends meet."

Former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, now the president of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), was not supportive.

"First of all, it would be better for the federal government to stay its own lane, and that includes staying out minimum wage setting," Calley said. He noted there has been a lot of debate over the minimum wage in Michigan in the last several years.

Calley said such policies "hurt the very people that they are trying to help." He said a $15 minimum wage, much less $20, will put some companies out of business.

"For those who can, what happens is that the hours of people have to be cut back in order to comply. And so the people you are trying to help end up having their hours cut back, and then it can also result in other types of benefit cuts. If you have a law that says, well compensation of a certain type, the hourly wage, has to be at a certain level, then other types of benefits may end up getting eliminated or reduced in order to meet that requirement," Calley contended.

He said the correct way to set pay levels is for employer and employee to negotiate so they get what they want and need.

"The other unintended consequence of these types of policies is that it accelerates automation. We already see a lot of employment that is lost just to automating processes that used to be handled by people. Every time you do something that increases the cost of people, you also increase the value proposition of automating more jobs," Calley said.

"I will give the people advocating for it the benefit of the doubt and say that these are unintended consequences but they are real consequences and they are the types of consequences that hurt the very people that they are trying to help," he concluded.

Reaction to the video on Twitter was mixed.

"She obviously does not own a business," tweeted one.

"A minimum wage is not meant to support a family. Minimum wage jobs are for HS kids or a starting point for someone to better themselves," said another.

But one tweeter contended that when adjusted for inflation, "the correct minimum wage should be at least $25 an hour."

And another said the minimum wage in Norway is $19.50. "It's amazing to watch all these boneheaded conservatives on this thread fight for the rights of the capitalists and against their own self-worth. They'd make great slaves."

Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland Twp.) quipped when talking to MIRS, "Just in case anyone forgot, Tlaib reminded us that she is, indeed, crazy. Why stop at $20 an hour? Let's make it $100 an hour and everyone will be rich."

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