LANSING, MI — As a court battle unfolds over whether to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, the group behind the effort says it has enough voter support for the increase even more.
One Fair Wage, the national nonprofit leading the effort, said it submitted more than 610,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State on Tuesday, July 26 for its Raise the Wage initiative. The proposed measure for the 2024 ballot would raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2027 and phase out sub-minimum wage for tipped, disabled and youth workers.
The leaders said they broke the record for the most signatures ever submitted for a Michigan legislative petition.
“This is going to help hundreds of thousands of Michiganders get a much-needed raise,” said Maricela Gutierrez, co-chair of Raise the Wage.
The deadline for signing initiatives to appear on the November 2022 ballot was June 1, which Raise the Wage missed “out of an abundance of caution”, One Fair Wage chairman Saru Jayaraman told reporters at the time. following a petition fraud scandal that cut the Republican governor’s race in half.
Signature collectors had collected nearly 500,000, according to One Fair Wage, including nearly 460,000 by paid circulators.
“We went through a very rigorous process to try to validate every signature that signed this petition,” co-chair Dave Woodward said Tuesday, adding that he felt “very confident” they would pass the inspection.
The campaign asked two validity firms to check signatures, the co-chairs said, and about 50,000 signatures were not delivered, mostly because they were duplicates.
Raising the salary will be on the November 2024 ballot if an Elections Office review finds enough valid signatures and the Board of State Canvassers approves. It needs 340,047 signatures to be valid, just over half of what they submitted.
Opposition group Michigan Opportunity, a business coalition, said Tuesday that Raise the Wage’s delay in submitting signatures raised questions about the validity of the signatures, and spokesman John Sellek said the Office had to have a “zero tolerance” for tampering.
Both supporters and opponents of the initiative are allowed to review the signatures as part of the Bureau’s process. Sellek said Michigan Opportunity would strongly consider legal action if any defects become apparent.
The legislature can pass the initiative into law within 40 days of being approved for ballot. Eight states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage of $15 or plan to do so, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In 2018, One Fair Wage’s petition to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 by 2022 and guarantee sick leave for workers gained enough signatures for the November ballot. But the Republican-controlled legislature voted to pass it before the election.
After the election, lawmakers changed it to cut pay and sick leave increases. A Claims Court judge ruled last week that the pass-and-amend strategy was unconstitutional, giving effect to the unamended law.
However, with the appeal process underway, the companies have not changed their salaries.
Read more: Lawyers want Michigan minimum wage and sick leave increases suspended amid court battle
Raising the wage would raise Michigan’s minimum wage — currently $9.87 an hour — by $1 a year until it hits $15 in 2027.
Because it was originally scheduled for the 2022 ballot, the increases are as follows: $11 in 2023, $12 in 2024, $13 in 2025, $14 in 2026, and $15 in 2027. These increases would occur regardless of whatever the unemployment rate, the initiative readsand increases after 2027 would be based on inflation.
Raising the wage would also adjust the minimum wage for tipped workers in those years — currently $3.75 an hour — until it matches the minimum wage for all employees.
“Underpayment was created during emancipation, when restaurant owners didn’t want to pay black people for their work and wanted them to live exclusively on tips,” Gutierrez said.
Employees would also have the legal right to keep tips unless they agree to split them with non-executives, and the state would not have the right to lower the minimum wage based on age. the worker’s disability or apprentice status.
If the $12 minimum wage goes into effect, it won’t impact the $15 proposal, Raise the Wage co-chairs say, because the wage would rise to $13 in 2025 if voters approve it . Additionally, the high profile of the current legal battle, they said, should help promote the $15 proposal through 2024.
“People are going to see a raise starting next year, and then they can build momentum in 2024 to vote themselves another raise, which is really needed,” Gutierrez said.
Sellek argues, however, that the 2024 initiative would be moot if the pass-and-change reversal persists, because “you can’t seek to change laws that no longer exist.”
Raising the salary was one of the 10 legislative initiatives ahead of the 2022 ballot, but only one – a proposal to crack down on payday loans – submitted signatures before the deadline. The Board of State Solicitors voted last week to keep him out of the ballot after the Office of Elections deemed him well below the required valid signatures.
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