Campaign To Boost Minimum Wage Debuts

A coalition seeking to increase Michigan’s minimum wage and phase out lower wages for tipped workers announced today the launch of a ballot measure for 2018.

The campaign, known as One Fair Wage Michigan, wants to raise the minimum wage to $12 by January 1, 2022 for non-tipped workers, and ensure tipped workers receive the same wage by January 1, 2024.

If the petition is approved by the Board of State Canvassers and gets enough signatures, the state Legislature will have the opportunity to make the initiative law. If it does not – and it is likely the Legislature wouldn’t act on it – the proposal would go on the 2018 ballot, seeking to increase the minimum wage for non-tipped worker to $10 an hour beginning January 1, 2019. For tipped workers, it would be 48 percent of that. Both would gradually increase until hitting their aforementioned targets.

“We are launching this ballot measure because workers in Michigan deserve fair pay for their hard work,” said Alicia Farris, state director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, which seeks to improve working conditions and opportunities for restaurant workers. “The restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the Michigan economy, but also the lowest-paying.”

Indeed, the Michigan Legislature approved and Governor Rick Snyder signed in 2014 legislation that gradually increases the minimum wage, and for tipped employees, 38 percent of the minimum hourly wage rate in effect for non-tipped employees. The first non-tipped employee wage increase went into effect on January 1, 2016 – an increase of 35 cents an hour.

The minimum wage is currently $8.90 an hour (40 cents higher than 2016), and it will max out at $9.25 an hour effective January 1, 2018. Tipped employees are currently required to receive at least $3.38 an hour (up 73 cents from before the law was implemented), and they will max out at $3.52 effective January 1, 2018.

The campaign, in its statement, said 70 percent of tipped workers in Michigan earning the tipped minimum wage are women “who suffer from three times the poverty rate of other Michiganders, even when you take tips into account,” it said. “Forty percent are single moms feeding their families on tips.”

“When you earn $3.38 an hour, your wage goes to taxes and you get a paycheck that says $0. You live on your tips, and when you live on your tips, you have to put up with inappropriate customer behavior in order to feed your family in tips,” said Sheena Bland, a restaurant worker from Detroit, in the statement. “Ninety percent of tipped workers say they’ve experienced unwanted sexual behavior from customers, co-workers, or managers. In fact, the restaurant industry has the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry.”

There is also a national effort underway to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Legislation (SB 185) was introduced in February by Sen. Coleman Young II (D-Detroit) to do just that, but it has yet to receive a hearing in the Senate Government Operations Committee.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson