Campaign will try to raise minimum wage
By Rick Pluta
A ballot campaign is organizing to give a pay raise to the roughly 90 thousand Michigan workers who make the state minimum wage of $7.40.
The Raise Michigan coalition says it's looking to boost the state minimum wage to somewhere between $9 and $10.10 and index it to inflation. Tipped employees, such as restaurant servers, would also see a raise.
Frank Houston is the campaign treasurer. He says the coalition has been watching for action at the state or federal level to raise the minimum wage.
"Leaving so many workers behind in Michigan is unacceptable, so our coalition is exploring launching a ballot initiative to make sure this is firmly on the agenda of leaders in Lansing and, if needed, we take it to the ballot box and pass a meaningful increase in the minimum wage this fall," he said.
A minimum wage increase would affect about 3.7 percent of Michigan's hourly workers, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Michigan minimum wage was last increase by an act of the Legislature in 2008.
Gov. Rick Snyder has said he does not think a minimum wage increase is necessary, especially since the state minimum wage is higher than the national hourly wage floor. His likely opponent, Democrat Mark Schauer, is already trying to make a minimum wage increase an issue in the election. President Obama could also renew his call for an increase in the federal minimum wage tomorrow (Tue.) night in his State of the Union address.
Business groups say a minimum wage hike would discourage hiring.
"If Michigan increases the cost of employing entry-level workers, lower-skilled workers will see less job opportunities because employers will be forced to hire higher-skilled job applicants to fill multiple roles or cut jobs to absorb the costs associated with the increase," said Wendy Block of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Raise Michigan is expected to make its final decision on a minimum wage target in the next week or two and file petition language with the state Bureau of Elections. It could seek to initiate a law via a petition drive, or ask voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution.