A proposal to hike Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 over the next four years will appear on the November ballot, pending a successful outcome before the Michigan Supreme Court.
Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers on Friday unanimously voted to certify the ballot proposal. Jeannette Bradshaw, a Democratic member of the board, was absent.
Canvassers’ action came days after a Michigan Court of Appeals panel ordered state elections officials to put the proposal on the ballot.
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The ballot proposal, backed by a committee called Michigan One Fair Wage, would change state law to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 in 2019 and $12 by 2022. That wage rate would apply to restaurant workers and other employees who receive tips, who today are paid below minimum wage.
Minimum wage in Michigan is $9.25 per hour, while tipped workers earn a minimum of $3.52 per hour before tips. Employers are required under state law to pay the difference to workers who don’t earn enough in tips to reach the minimum wage rate.
One Fair Wage representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on the board’s vote.
Opponents to the proposal — led by the hospitality industry — have asked the Michigan Supreme Court to block the proposal in an emergency appeal. State elections officials have until Sept. 7 to finalize ballot language for the Nov. 6 general election.
Justin Winslow, spokesman for a ballot committee called Michigan Opportunity that opposes the minimum wage initiative and president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant Association, told Bridge by email Thursday the committee has asked the state’s highest court to return a decision by Aug. 31.
State canvassers followed a similar process with a ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission, backed by a committee called Voters Not Politicians. That proposal also was certified after an appeals court order, about a month before the Supreme Court rejected opponents’ challenge and allowed the measure to appear on the November ballot.
Michigan Opportunity has said it believes the minimum wage proposal is “misleading and lacks the transparency required by the Michigan constitution.”
Lawyers for Michigan Opportunity have argued that the proposal is ineligible for the ballot because its language refers to the law that would be changed only by its title, when it should have reprinted the entire law and highlighted what changes would be made.
Mark Brewer, an attorney for Michigan One Fair Wage, has countered that the ballot language shows the proposal would “supersede” existing state law.
Hiking the minimum wage has support from groups that advocate for better working conditions for restaurant workers. They have called it “one of the best economic stimulus packages” because it puts more money into workers’ paychecks and, in turn, the economy.
Restaurant operators are the main backers of the Michigan Opportunity committee opposing the minimum wage proposal. Employer groups have said the proposal, and another certified ballot initiative to mandate paid sick leave, would place too heavy a burden on businesses.