Group seeks to up Michigan minimum wage

By DAVID EGGERT

Associated Press

LANSING — Advocates for restaurant workers launched a 2018 ballot drive Thursday to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, saying the growing industry is not paying enough to employees — including those who earn tips.

The group behind the effort, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, led a similar push in 2014 that culminated with the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder boosting the minimum wage by a smaller amount.

The Michigan One Fair Wage committee — whose initiative was blasted by the restaurant industry — plans to soon ask the state elections board to approve its petition form, after which it will begin circulating petitions. It will need more than 252,000 valid voter signatures to put the initiated legislation before lawmakers. If legislators did not act, the bill would get a statewide vote in November 2018.

Michigan’s hourly minimum wage is $8.90, rises to $9.25 in January and, starting in 2019, will increase annually with inflation unless the unemployment rate is high. Under the proposal, the wage would rise to $10 in 2019, $10.65 in 2020, $11.35 in 2021 and $12 in 2022, with yearly inflationary adjustments afterward.

The minimum wage for tipped employees would gradually increase from the current $3.38 until reaching the minimum wage for all other workers in 2024. The ballot committee is not seeking a $15 wage despite it being pushed by fast-food employees nationally. The $15 minimum also has been embraced by the three most viable Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

“The restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the Michigan economy, but also the lowest-paying. … It’s time for one fair wage for Michigan,” said Alicia Farris, state director for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, which announced the ballot campaign in Detroit with other organizations.

State law requires employers to ensure tipped employees make at least the minimum wage, but Farris said many are single mothers deserving of a higher wage.

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant Association, said the proposal would kill jobs and is “irresponsible and dangerously out of touch.” He added that the minimum wage already is scheduled to increase for the fourth straight year.

One Fair Wage, Winslow said, “is funded almost entirely from out-of-state interests who either don’t know or don’t care how their policies impact real people in Michigan. It is even more reckless to force Michigan into the distinct minority of states that have eliminated the tipped minimum wage, which will irrefutably harm Michigan’s second-largest private employer and only serve to diminish opportunities for those that need them most.”

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