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$12 Minimum Wage Supporters Oppose Proposal to Adopt and Amend Ballot Measure

State Republicans have suggested taking up the issue rather than letting it go to voters in November

Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Organizers behind Michigan’s One Fair Wage measure that seeks to raise the state minimum wage to $12 per hour are calling on state Republicans to allow voters to decide the issue on the November ballot.

State Republicans have reportedly discussed adopting the minimum wage and and paid sick leave measures next week, ahead of deadlines to finalize and print ballots for the November election. The lawmakers could then amend the proposals with a simple majority after the election — potentially removing the provisions for tipped workers.

The proposed One Fair Wage measure would gradually raise the state minimum wage from $9.25 per hour to $12 per hour by 2022 and slowly increase the tipped minimum wage from $3.52 per hour to $12 per hour by 2024.

“We want a commitment that the legislators [they] won’t try and take [the minimum wage measure] over and create their own One Fair Wage amendments and gut it in lame duck session,” One Fair Wage campaign manager Pete Vargas said during a conference call on Thursday afternoon. The language of the proposal was designed with input from employers, “but there isn’t room for wiggle when it comes to leaving a tip workers out of this, out of this raise process,” Vargas said.

Godwin Ihentuge, the owner of food truck and catering company Yum Village in Detroit, helped collect and deliver signatures for the One Fair Wage campaign and joined in the call for legislators to allow voters to decide the issue this fall. “I’m calling on elected officials here to know that I want to be able to vote for One Fair Wage come November, as is — no changes, the original language, so that we can do what we should be doing anyway.” Ihentuge added that he pays his employees at least $12 an hour. “I made my business plans based around that, I planned for it, I acknowledge it and I expect full and well that within five years that should be where we are going to be at any way in terms of payment and what we pay workers,” he said.

Groups including Michigan Opportunity, an organization backed by the conservative-leaning Michigan Restaurant Association, sought to block the measure from the November ballot in court. However, a Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of the One Fair Wage campaign on August 22, effectively ordering the state to put the proposal on the ballot.

Opposition groups believe that increasing the state’s minimum wage and abolishing the tipped minimum wage would harm the economy and the restaurant industry. Restaurant owners including Heirloom Hospitality’s Jeremy Sasson and Mabel Gray’s James Rigato have warned that wage increases would result in higher menu prices and new payment formats at some establishments. Other states and municipalities have adopted similar wage increases in the past several years. The wage increases have resulted in some changes to the formats of restaurants, but based on early reports has not necessarily lead to a greater than average number of restaurant closures.

For tipped employees, the issue is more complicated. The tipped minimum wage assumes that employees make $5.73 per hour in tips in addition to the $3.52 per hour paid by the restaurant. While some tipped workers at high-volume and high-end restaurants can earn substantially more than $12 per hour, many tipped employees are often at the whims of shifts and customers to make ends meet.

Tracy Pease, a supporter of the One Fair Wage campaign whose worked as a server for 30 years in metro Detroit, described how a minimum $12 per hour would make her weekly wages more predictable. “Even if I had a slow day, at least I would know that I was making $12 an hour, instead of guessing, ‘Am I going to end up making $500 this week or will I be lucky to make $200 bucks this week?’” she said. Pease also stated that many tipped employees who don’t receive the state-mandated $5.73 per hour in tips to reach the minimum wage, do not ask employers for money to make up the difference for fear of losing their jobs.

Republicans are expected to meet to discuss the issue on September 5 and will likely decide whether to take up the proposals by September 7.

Are you a restaurant owner of employee in Detroit? Eater wants to hear your thoughts on the paid sick leave and minimum wage increase proposals. Drop a note at the tipline.

Michigan Court Rules $12 Minimum Wage Proposal Should Go on November Ballot [ED]
Legislature Mulls Adopt-and-Amend Plan on Minimum Wage, Sick Time Proposals [MLive]
Legislature Could Pre-empt Ballot Votes on Minimum Wage, Sick Leave [Freep]
All Wages Coverage [ED]