Dems Call for Restoration of Stolen Wages for MI Workers

Legislators propose repealing law that gutted minimum wage initiative
Thursday, March 7, 2019

LANSING — House and Senate Democrats held a press conference today to call for the repeal of a 2018 law that gutted a minimum wage increase for low-wage workers. The Democrats’ plan to Repeal the Steal would reinstate the minimum wage increase in the original One Fair Wage ballot initiative, as supported by the nearly 400,000 Michiganders who signed on to proposal. The initiative was passed by the legislative majority in September of last year, which kept the proposal off the November ballot, before the law was gutted by the Republican-led Legislature during lame duck.

“No one working 40 hours a week should have to worry about whether they can afford to put food on the table or keep a roof over their head,” said Rep. Bill Sowerby (D-Clinton Township), the sponsor of the House bill. “That was ultimately what the thousands of Michiganders supporting the original ballot proposal were fighting for — the economic security they deserve. The bait and switch pulled by the legislative majority last year robbed them of that security and their opportunity to earn a decent living. It is money stolen directly from their wallets, and my legislation will Repeal the Steal.”

Nearly 320,000 Michiganders make a wage of $9.25 or less, with over a million, or 27 percent of the total employment of the state, making at or below $12. The original ballot initiative would have increased the minimum wage incrementally to $12 by January of 2022. Under the current, gutted form of the law, the $12 threshold will not be reached until 2030 and, unlike the ballot initiative, will not be indexed to keep up with inflation.

“As a working mom who has spent a lifetime getting to $15 an hour and has been plagued with the questions of uncertainty about how to keep it all together for my family, I know very well why this increase is so important, and that answer is simple: dignity,” said Sen. Betty Jean Alexander (D-Detroit), the sponsor of the Senate bill. “Republicans stole that opportunity from the people who need it the most, and this legislation is a small step toward righting that unjust ship.”

For 2019 a minimum wage worker could have earned $10 per hour, but instead will only make $9.45, translating to $1200 fewer annually for someone working 40 hours per week. Because of the way the law is structured, the amount stolen from families will grow every year the minimum wage does not increase when it should have. By the end of 2022, when the wage was originally scheduled to reach $12, families will have lost out on approximately $10,358 in wages.

“I applaud Sen. Alexander and Rep. Sowerby for standing with Michigan’s tipped and minimum wage workers and introducing legislation to undo the unconstitutional gutting of the One Fair Wage proposal that stripped workers of their raises,” said Dr. Alicia Renee Farris, state director of Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan and chair of the Michigan One Fair Wage steering committee. “Raising the minimum wage and phasing out the subminimum wage will help lift working families out of poverty and move them off public assistance so they can become more independent.”

House Bill 4299 and Senate Bill 168 will now be referred to committees for review.