Maximum attention is being paid to the minimum wage in Michigan.
The latest attempt to increase the state’s minimum wage calls for a hike of nearly 25 percent to $9.20 per hour by January of 2017 (up from $7.40 now).
The biggest critics of a bill now moving through the Michigan legislature are also the biggest proponents of a Michigan minimum wage increase.
“I think it’s about the November election, and I don’t know what to say about that,” said Bette Pierman, a Benton Harbor resident who volunteered for the Raise Michigan campaign.
Pierman and others passed petitions to put a ballot initiative before voters this November that would ask them to set the minimum wage at $10.10 by 2017.
Not only does the senate passed bill call for a lower minimum wage, it would stop the ballot initiative in its tracks.
“I don't know how they feel they can operate this way. It certainly isn't how I pictured democratic values and true representation of the people to be,” said Pierman. “$9.20 an hour in 2017 is not really what the people of Michigan are looking for.”
Published reports say polls pinned public support for the ballot initiative at 65 percent.
Some of the people on hand at a job fair at the Niles Public Library today expressed support for the idea of raising the minimum wage.
“The minimum wage anymore, for what things are now a days, $10 is good, so then you're working for something. You’re going to get people who are going to work hard for you,” said Johnny Frantz of Niles.
“A minimum wage I think every year should be increased at least 1.5 to 3 percent. That's what the economy grows every year, so if you're not keeping pace with the economy you're just falling down you're spiraling down,” said James Hay of Niles.
The senate passed version of the bill does call for further automatic increases that would be tied to inflation in years when unemployment is low.
The senate passed version was heard in a house committee today, where members promised to consider changes as soon as Thursday.
There are vast differences between the bill and the ballot initiative when it comes to the treatment of restaurant employees who receive tips.
The bill would increase their hourly rate from $2.65 to $3.50. The ballot initiative would eventually bring tipped worker wages in line with those of everybody else at $10.10.