Republicans are terrified of the Raise the Wage proposal. They know that, if it gets on the 2014 ballot, Democrats will turn out in droves. They are counting on Democrats staying home during a midterm election so that they can retain the governship so the idea of heavy Dem turnout gives them the howling fantods.
Republican Rick Jones, however, has come to the rescue. He has introduced legislation that raises the minimum wage a teeny tiny itty bitty little bit (from $7.40 an hour to $8.15 an hour) and keeps the minimum wage for restaurant wait staff at a paltry $2.65 – an miniscule $0.10 an hour increase. For a full-time waiter or waitress, that’s an additional $4 per week. Wow!
The Raise the Wage referendum would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over the course of several years.
He says that it’s all for the waiters and waitresses:
I see some real problems if this gets on the ballot and passes, restaurants closing and good waiters and waitresses being put out of work.
His assumption – his RIDICULOUS assumption, I might add – is that nobody will go to restaurants any more if the wait staff is paid a decent wage. I mean, ferreals, go to any state with a higher minimum wage and no restaurants. They all closed down!!!
While it is somewhat encouraging that Republicans in the legislature have finally realized that Michigan workers deserve a raise, this proposal does little to lift families out of poverty and falls short of the goals of the Raise Michigan Coalition.
This referendum is similar to the one that was passed by anti-Choice groups in that, once they have enough signatures, 258,000 by May 28th, the state legislature can pass it, modify it, or do nothing. If they do nothing, it goes to the voters on the November ballot. If they modify it, their modified version would be on the ballot in addition to the original version.
The Detroit Free Press reminds us that this attempt to scuttle the Raise the Wage proposal was used the last time the minimum wage was raised, as well:
Many Republicans fear that if minimum wage hike proposals get on the November ballot, that it will increase Democratic voter turnout. The last time a petition drive calling for a hike in the minimum wage was proposed in 2006, Republicans offered and passed an alternative gradually raising the minimum wage to $7.40 and keeping a bigger hike in the wage off the ballot.
Jones’ bill is little more than a wet kiss to Republican corporate benefactors and an admission that Republicans realize they are in deep trouble in November if this proposal makes it on the ballot because it has widespread bipartisan support and is a motivating factor to get Democrats to the polls. It’s an issue that’s getting widespread attention across the state and nationally. All of our major Democratic candidates are talking about it. Even President Obama is pushing the effort and came to Michigan to say so.
This bill will change nothing. Nobody with two brain cells to knock together believes that raising the minimum wage is going to put all of our waiters and waitresses out of work. What they know is that when people make a living wage, they will plow that income right back into the economy and everybody wins.
Be afraid, Michigan Republicans. Be very, very afraid.
UPDATE: Here is the response to Sen. Jones’ insulting bill by Karla Swift, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO:
Senator Jones’ minimum wage bill is an insult to thousands of Michigan workers who are struggling to get by. This proposal is not adequate to lift families out of poverty, and it is intended to stifle any serious attempt to raise wages.
Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. Raising the minimum wage, especially for tipped workers who are predominantly women, will boost women’s economic security and help close the wage gap. Jones is pandering to the Restaurant Association with a meager tipped wage increase of 10 cents per hour. A fulltime waitress making his “improved” wage of $2.65 per hour would only see an additional $4.00 per week.
Every time momentum builds for lifting wages, conservative like Jones say it will cost jobs. Every time they’ve been dead wrong.
Jobs should lift workers out of poverty, not trap them in a cycle of insecurity and government assistance. Although this bill does not offer any real solutions, it is a reminder that, if they decided to do so, Republicans in the legislature could address the critical issue of wages through the legislative process. Now, in an election year, they decide to offer up legislation that is inadequate for workers in a blatant attempt to appease special interests. Michigan voters won’t buy it.
I cosign that. 100%.
Adding…I was VERY surprised to see Democratic Senator Bert Johnson in the Detroit Free Press saying “I can’t argue against it because it’s progress. If you make $7.40 an hour today and $8.15 tomorrow, you call it a good day.” That’s accepting the framing of your opponents and allowing them to keep you satisfied with the scraps they toss in the dirt. Our low-wage workers deserve so much better than that.