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Raise The Wage Ballot Initiative Delivers 610,000 Signatures For $15 Minimum Wage

August 2, 2022

Courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Watchdog

Amid a court ruling that could raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour, the Raise The Wage Michigan Ballot initiative is going one step further, delivering 610,000 signatures in an attempt to get a $15 minimum wage on the 2024 ballot. 

The initiative was started by advocacy group One Fair Wage, and it attempts to raise the state’s minimum wage, which is currently $9.87, to $15 an hour by 2027.

The consensus from a majority of voters is that the increase is long overdue, said Maricela Gutierrez, co-chair of the Raise the Wage Michigan ballot initiative and co-organizing director of One Fair Wage. She said an outpouring of support is reflected by the signatures collected. 

“I’m super excited,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve been running around Michigan for the last few months collecting signatures, and I’ve just gotten so many people who say this is way past due.” 

One Fair Wage started the 2022 ballot initiative after a $12-an-hour minimum wage citizen initiative in 2018 was adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature only to be amended shortly thereafter. Last week, the Michigan Court of Claims declared this legislative strategy unconstitutional.

That court ruling by Court of Claims Judge Douglas Shapiromeans the $12 minimum wage will soon take effect unless the request from state attorneys to pause is successful.

However, the tentative win isn’t enough for advocates, said Dave Woodward, co-chair of the ballot initiative, former state representative and chair of the Oakland County Commission.

“We are incredibly excited and thankful that Judge Shapiro ruled that what the legislature did, adopt a minimum wage increase and then take it away in the same legislative session, is unconstitutional,” he said. “One Fair Wage was a critical driver in that ballot initiative, which was $12. Now this one is $15.” 

Woodward added that workers deserve a raise, and “as long as they keep fighting for it, we’re going to keep fighting for it.” 

The ballot initiative would also level the playing field and increase the minimum wage for tipped workers, Gutierrez said, something she dated back 160 years to emancipation in the U.S.  

“Another reason why this ballot measure is super historic is because it eliminates the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers,” she said. “This has a direct legacy in slavery and was created during emancipation, when restaurant owners decided they didn’t want to pay Black people for their labor and wanted them to live exclusively off tips.” 

Gutierrez added that the tipped minimum wage, which has increased to $3.75, isn’t a liveable option for many workers. 

But not all Michiganders are in favor of an immediate increase, with the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA) expressing concern about the effect on restaurants if the tipped worker wage increases following the ruling. 

MRLA President & CEO Justin Winslow said the association disagrees with Shapiro’s interpretation and requests the ruling be stayed during the “inevitable appeals process.” 

“If the 2018 proposals are allowed to be implemented as originally crafted, restaurant operators would immediately experience 156% labor cost inflation at a time when their recovery is already tenuous and the average wage for tipped employees in Michigan is currently $24 per hour,” he said. “The inevitable result would be instantaneous menu price increases and significant layoffs during peak travel season.”  

But the association did not immediately respond to a request for its position on additional wage increases up to $15.  

Under the citizens initiative process, if the Bureau of Elections concludes that the petitions has at least 340,047 valid signatures, it will go to the Legislature, which would have 40 days to pass it. If the legislature declines to do so, the measure would go on the 2024 ballot.

When asked if Raise The Wage Michigan will push for legislative consideration or hold off in hopes of a post-election Democratic majority, Woodward said legislators at any time can raise the minimum wage, and “as a former state legislator, I strongly encourage them to do so.”  

“But we can’t count on them, we can’t count on this Republican legislature,” Woodward added. “It’s been demonstrated by their past behavior and circumventing the minimum wage law that they did adopt and then gutted.”

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