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House, Senate Pass Paid Sick Leave, $12 Minimum Wage

September 11, 2018

The citizens’ initiatives to phase in a $12 minimum wage and allow workers to take five days of paid sick leave a year passed the House Wednesday afternoon, hours after the Senate took the same step.

Initiative Petition (IP) 3 and IP 4 were not given immediate effect, meaning both will initiate around April 1 of next year, 90 days after lawmakers adjourn for the year. 

However, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Holland) conceded after Wednesday’s session that amending one or both proposals later this legislative session is a real possibility, particularly as the business community expresses concerns about the more “onerous” portions of the initiatives. 

“We’re looking at a suite of things,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see the Legislature later “gutting” either proposal. 

The elimination of the “tip credit” for restaurant workers, in particular, is a concern in the $12 minimum wage proposal, Meekhof said. Moving up the minimum salary for wait staff from $3.52 an hour to $12 would likely increase restaurant food costs, while all but eliminating the state’s tipping culture. 

“There would be no incentive to do better if workers are limited in what they can make,” Meekhof said. 

On the paid sick leave proposal, Meekhof said he’s concerned about workers not showing up for a string of days and then employers being responsible for paying the worker. He suggested creating a system similar to the family medical leave act where there’s an agreement between the employer and the employee. 

Mark Brewer, attorney for the $12 minimum wage campaign, Michigan One Fair Wage, argued Tuesday that it’s unconstitutional for the Legislature to both adopt and amend a ballot proposal in the same legislative session. It has never been done before under the current state constitution.

Meekhof said the argument is unfounded and not based in any case law, and referred to it as “crap that Mark Brewer is spewing.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) declined to speculate about the legal arguments, but referred to the “procedural gimmick” the Republican majority employed Wednesday as “undo and screw.” 

He argued that if Republicans were serious about making these reforms, they would have offered up an alternative proposal to put before the voters, which is allowed under the constitution. But to pass both initiatives without giving either immediate effect shows their intent to “pulverize” both measures before they take effect. 

“They’re so afraid of the voters that they’re not willing to let them make a decision,” said Ananich. He added that if Republicans were serious about the reform, they would have given both measures immediate effect and then taken it away later in the session. 

The Secretary of State must certify all ballot questions by Sept. 7, meaning Wednesday was the deadline to act for lawmakers. 

Time to Care, the paid sick leave proposal, requires that employers give employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The employee can take five days of paid sick leave a year and four additional days unpaid. The sick leave carries over year after year, but an employee is limited to five days paid sick leave and four days unpaid each year. 

The proposal doesn’t require proof of sickness after three days of absenteeism. Victims of sexual assault fall under the paid sick leave proposal, as do those charged with caring for a sick child, spouse, grandparent or relative. 

The proposal is being funded by an out-of-state social welfare group called the “Sixteen Thirty Fund.” The Fairness Project and Mothering Justice has also given money to the effort. 

The minimum wage proposal, One Fair Wage, would gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022 and raise the tipped wage to $12 an hour by 2024. Organized labor is fueling the proposal, which still hasn’t completely cleared the legal system, yet. 

The Supreme Court still hasn’t ruled if the proposal was properly drafted and if the all of the signatures collected are valid.

In the Senate, the measures passed 24-13 with Republican Sens. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton), Joe Hune (R-Hamburg) and Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) joining the Democrats in voting against both. 

Colbeck argued the proposal reminded him of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, when the clever boy tricks others into getting them to whitewash a fence for him. He urged the Legislature to shoot down both proposals and then try to defeat them at the ballot box. 

“Let’s win on the merits of our vote, not rely on these procedural gimmicks,” he said. 

Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) called Wednesday’s action, “Nothing more than a classic bait and switch, a trick on the voters here in Michigan . . . an attack on our democracy.” 

Over in the House, Republican leadership took the afternoon rounding up the needed “yes” votes after they ran into opposition from some of their more principled conservatives who had ideological problems with supporting increased state mandates on businesses. 

The initiatives passed 78-28 with Republican Rep. Tom Albert (R-Lowell), Martin Howerylak (R-Troy), Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), John Reilly (R-Oakland Twp.), Jim Tedder (R-Clarkston) and Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond) voting no with most Democrats. 

Voting yes on the minimum wage with most Republicans were Reps. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Wendell Byrd (D-Detroit), Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.), Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), John Chirkun (D-Roseville), Cara Clemente (D-Lincoln Park), Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), Fred Durhal (D-Detroit), Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak), Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills), Tim Griemel (D-Auburn Hills), Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), Robert Kodowski (D-Westland), Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.), Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint), Ronnie Peterson (D-Ypsilanti), Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), Tim Sneller (D-Burton) and Kristy Pagan (D-Canton Twp.). 

The vote was the same on the paid sick leave proposal except Rep. Dave LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) voted yes and Peterson voted no. 

Hours before the final vote, House Minority Leader Singh was telling MIRS this was a GOP attempt to depress the vote in November. 

“I think that’s what they’ve been trying to do election cycle after election cycle, making it hard for people to vote and this is another case of those voter suppression techniques,” he said. 

The lobbyists for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) were united in their opposition to the sick leave and minimum wage issues. The NFIB’s Charlie Owens said his membership is “the least able to comply with the law as written. It’s very cumbersome,” he argued.  Former Sen. Tony Stamas from SBAM fears new and small businesses trying to start up may be stopped before they start. 

“We want small business to have a chance to grow and when you keep adding additional burdens on them, a lot of them aren’t going to make it . . . this is bad for business,” he said, just before the Senate voted to block the issues from going to the November ballot. 

That move was applauded by the Restaurant Workers Association (RWA), which rallied in front of a downtown Lansing bar while other members sat in the Senate gallery. National RWA president Jennifer Shellenberg predicted the impact of a higher minimum wage. 

“I think the only restaurants that can survive this kind of a minimum wage increase are the huge corporate restaurants and all the small mom and pops’ will disappear,” she predicted. 

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