Business groups challenge minimum wage, sick leave proposals
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Proposals to raise the Michigan minimum wage and require paid sick time came under fire from pro-business lobbying groups Friday, the deadline to challenge the two ballot initiatives.
The first, a movement by the union-endorsed Michigan One Fair Wage committee to pay Michigan workers $12 an hour and abolish the tipped minimum wage, is being challenged by hospitality industry group Michigan Opportunity. The other complaint is from Small Business for a Better Michigan and concerns the Michigan Time to Care proposal to guarantee employees at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.
The challenges allege the two initiatives possess faulty petition signatures and demand that the Michigan secretary of state scrap them from the November ballot.
“It is clear the out-of-state funders of this (sick leave) initiative have been more focused on buying signatures to circumvent the legislative process than collecting valid signatures to support their bought-and-paid-for initiative,” said Small Business for a Better Michigan coalition member Mike Johnston.
Organizers for both proposals defended their petitions and said the complaints are ploys by “special interests” to stymie reforms that would help Michigan’s working families.
One Fair Wage delivered more than 370,000 signatures in May, while Time to Care submitted more than 380,000. The Board of State Canvassers must certify at least 252,523 signatures for the initiatives to qualify. Michigan Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said the state elections bureau is conducting its own review of the petitions and will present a recommendation to the board before it meets later this month.
Beyond the signature challenge, the minimum wage initiative also received a legal complaint from Michigan Opportunity on Friday. The lawsuit alleges the proposal fails to address which parts of Michigan’s existing wage law it seeks to amend.
“We firmly believe that the Michigan One Fair Wage petition, financed almost exclusively by out-of-state interests, has willfully violated Michigan’s Constitution and Michigan election law to achieve the special interest ends of their financiers,” Michigan Opportunity committee spokesman Justin Winslow said.
Mark Brewer, lawyer for the minimum wage group, said the legal challenge is meritless and will be fought.
Michigan’s minimum wage is currently at $9.25 an hour. One Fair Wage wants to hike that up to $10 next year and conclude with $12 in 2022. Tipped employees would also be paid full minimum wage on top of their tips by 2024. Currently, Michigan employees who collect voluntary gratuities are subject to a reduced minimum wage of $3.52 an hour — as long as that combines with their tips to reach the minimum.
The worker’s rights group backing the effort, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, spearheaded a similar Michigan campaign in 2014. It culminated with the GOP-controlled Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder circumventing the initiative by preemptively boosting the minimum wage by a smaller amount. After this year, only inflationary adjustments are slated.
The Time to Care act would deem any physical and mental illness of the employee or employee’s family, as well as domestic violence situations, to be conditions that merit paid sick leave — at least 72 hours of earned sick time per year for businesses with 10 or more workers, and 40 for smaller ones. Michigan has prohibited local governments from requiring that businesses provide earned leave time and other benefits since 2015.
Their opponents maintain these policies will wreck their businesses, leaving workers with fewer jobs, lower incomes and a stunted economy.