The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 06, 2014

Minimum wage, maximum politics: $9.20 per-hour wage coming to Michigan

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – Michigan’s minimum wage will rise from $7.40 per hour to $9.20 by 2017, in bipartisan, compromise legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on May 27.

The statewide minimum wage, which will begin to rise incrementally beginning Sept. 1,  would be adjusted to the rate of inflation or 3.5 percent, whichever is lower, starting in 2019. Tipped employees will also see raises in their minimum wage, from $2.65 to a rate that is 38 percent of the minimum, or about $3.51 an hour.

“I commend my partners in the Legislature for finding common ground on a bill that will help Michigan workers and protect our state’s growing economy,” Snyder said. The governor had previously opposed a minimum wage hike, but recent polling may have changed a few minds. An EPIC MRA poll last month showed that a minimum wage hike to $10.10 per hour had widespread support in Michigan (56 percent in favor vs. 39 percent opposed).

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, who had called for a $9.25 per hour minimum wage from the start of his campaign last year, called it “common-sense legislation” because “nobody who works full time should be living in poverty.”

In the U.S. Congress, a proposal to hike minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over 30 months seems hopelessly bogged down, unable to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate and unlikely to pass in the U.S. House. Michigan becomes the first state with a Republican-majority legislature to raise the minimum wage this year. The state House voted for the bill, 76-34, and in the state Senate, the vote count was 24-12. About half of Republican lawmakers in Lansing voted for the bill, as did most Democrats.

Some Democrats said they voted “no” because the bill apparently negates a petition drive that would have asked voters in November to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. (See related article). And some Republicans simply held their noses and voted for it. “I’m going to do this with a heavy heart because I don’t believe government has a place adjusting wage in our society,” Rep. Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle. He called the alternative raise to $10.10 “terrible.”

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said “everybody gave a little and everybody got a little.”

Senate Democrats took credit for prodding Republicans to move the minimum wage level higher.  Negotiations started at $8.15 per hour and arrived at $9.25 per hour, and included a cost of living escalator that has historically never been part of minimum wage legislation. “This bill is not only a victory for Michigan’s minimum wage workers today, but for years to come, as the minimum wage will continue to go up in a timely fashion,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing).