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Legal Challenge To Paid Sick Leave, Min. Wage Changes Imminent

February 20, 2019

A legal challenge to take down the Legislature’s lame duck changes to the state’s minimum wage and paid sick leave proposals is coming soon, MIRS has learned.

Leaders of both drives to create a $12-an-hour floor by 2022 and an annual bank of 72 hours of paid sick leave said with “100 percent certainty” something would be done to bring back the original proposals approved by lawmakers last summer before they were changed in December.

Oakland County Commission Chair Dave Woodward, who did work for both Time To Care and One Fair Wage, said he could say with “100 percent” certainty that “we’re going to improve paid sick time for all workers and we’re going to do whatever it takes.”

“We’re not going to stop,” he said. “We’re going to keep at this. We’re going to keep moving the needle so workers have a chance to climb up that ladder of opportunity.”

That could mean going back to the ballot in 2020, but Woodward also said, “I’d like to explore the constitutionality of what (the Legislature) did” when it passed both citizens initiatives in September and then significantly changed both proposals in December.

No lawsuit challenging the amending of the citizens initiatives has been filed, yet, but One Fair Wage and Time to Care, the groups that pushed the proposals, have previously decried the legislative action as being unconstitutional.

Danielle Atkinson, founder of Mothering Justice in Michigan, also emphasized during a panel discussion at the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) annual conference that her group isn’t letting off the gas.

“Mothering Justice is a momma’s agenda. Leave policies are on that agenda. We’ve been working toward that for six years. We will not stop until all of our proposals are enacted,” she said.

Justin Winslow, executive director of the Michigan Restaurant Association, and Charlie Owens, National Federation of Independent Businesses, also shared their perspective during an issue panel.

Under the legislative changes, the $12 minimum wage won’t be phased in until 2030 as opposed to 2022. Also, tipped workers won’t be brought up to $12, which was in the original proposal. Instead, restaurant staff’s pre-tip wage will be 38 percent of the existing minimum wage.

The Legislature’s changed paid-sick leave proposal limits the number of impacted businesses to those with more than 50 employees. Instead of 72 hours of paid sick time a year, it would be 40 hours and would only apply to employees with a year of service.

Winslow called the original proposals a “fundamental and existential threat to the restaurant industry,” the state’s second-largest employer. Polling from 1,700 of his members showed that because of this change, 19 percent will be allowed to stay open.

Another 76 percent said because of the retention of the tip credit, they will be able to grow or retain jobs.

On the issue of whether One Fair Wage and Time to Care will be on the ballot in 2020, Winslow took a pessimistic view that “this will be a perpetual two-year process. There is no end game. Politically speaking, it makes sense to put this on the ballot every two years.”

While the straight polling on both issues is strong, Owens said if respondents knew the impact both proposals would have — a projected 18,000 jobs lost and $3.9 million sucked out of the state’s economy — they would change their minds.

“It is a soul-crushing experience to be a small business owner and have 10 employees and have to walk out to two of them . . . and say ‘I’m sorry, we have to let you go’ . . . in order to afford this mandated benefit on the remaining eight employees,” Owens said.

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