This afternoon the Michigan Senate passed S.B. 934 which raises the minimum wage in Michigan but by less than an indirect initiated state statute ballot referendum would have. This legislation short-circuits the ballot initiative.
However, the legislation as passed by the Senate does reflect some changes since it was first introduced. In the beginning, the legislation only increased the minimum wage to $8.15/hour. The version that was passed raises it to $9.20/hour by 2017 and then indexes it annually based on the consumer price index to reflect the impact on inflation. The increases would be done in these steps:
- Increased to $8.15/hour on September 1st, 2014
- Increased to $8.50/hour on January 1st, 2015
- Increased to $8.85/hour on January 1st, 2016
- Increased to $9.20/hour on January 1st, 2017
This newest version is remarkably similar to a proposal put forth by Democratic candidate for Governor Mark Schauer who released this statement in support of the Senate’s action today:
I applaud the Michigan Senate, and call on the Michigan House to pass this landmark bill. This bipartisan bill would give a raise to 1 million Michigan workers, because nobody working full time should be living in poverty. I’ve led on this issue and now it’s time for Governor Snyder to signal his support for this important legislation.
Schauer even visited the state Capitol building where this unlikely picture was taken:
Here's something you won't see everyday. Schauer compliments RR on passing min wage bill. pic.twitter.com/fsmevwbqV8
— Danielle Emerson (@greenandwrite10) May 15, 2014
It’s fascinating to watch leadership being provided by the Democratic candidate for Governor in the vacuum created by the utter lack of leadership from the current Governor, Rick Snyder.
While many folks are likely to be angry that their voices are being silenced by Republican action on the minimum wage, they can take great satisfaction in knowing that, without their extensive efforts and passionate advocacy on increasing the minimum wage, none of this would have happened. They did, in fact, have their voices heard and they did, in fact, affect serious change and they should be proud of that.
That being said, the legislation now goes to the House and there is no guarantee that they will accept $9.20/hour. If they don’t, this may well be a legislative hot potato (much like the EAA expansion bill has been) and the ballot drive will be an important part of shaping that conversation.
UPDATE: Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer issued this statement via Facebook:
Just two days ago, I joined Michigan workers in voicing opposition to SB 934 as an obvious attempt to take away the rights of Michigan families to vote on a meaningful raise in Michigan’s minimum wage.
In its original form, SB 934 provided a minimal, one-time increase to the state’s minimum wage that was more pandering and political maneuvering than real relief for workers.
As disappointing as it was to see this legislation introduced, when it became clear that Republicans were intent on passing it and take that choice away from voters, I decided to roll up my sleeves, take a seat at the table and work to make significant changes to the bill to infuse it with some of the real demands of our workers.
In large part, I’m proud to say we got there.
This bill passed today is substantially better than the bill that was introduced last week. It provides a meaningful raise to countless workers throughout our state and, more importantly, ensures their wage will properly adjust upward with the rate of inflation in the future without us having to have these politically charged debates over and over again in the legislature.
Under the legislation passed today, Michigan’s minimum wage will rise to $8.15 this year, $8.50 in 2015, $8.85 in 2016 and $9.20 in 2017. More importantly, my caucus and I fought to ensure the minimum wage will automatically adjust higher with the rate of inflation starting in 2018 and beyond.
Yet, while I’m proud of the substantial changes we were able to make to the bill, I do remain frustrated that this bill’s intent and outcome remains ending the ballot initiative brought forward by the people of Michigan.
I continue to ask the question: When did we become so afraid of letting the people of Michigan have their voices heard?
The Raise Michigan group deserves our thanks. They fought and continue to fight for Michigan’s workers and I am grateful for their tireless commitment to securing a fair wage for Michigan workers. This discussion never would have come to fruition without them forcing the issue.
It was disappointing to cast this vote knowing that this bill will interfere with their ballot initiative, but it was clear that my Republican colleagues were going to do so with or without our support. In the end, I would rather fight to make the bill a close approximation of what our workers deserve want than nothing at all.
To Michigan’s workers, I simply say that we fought for you. Your voices were at the table. And we passed a bill that’s going to make a difference.
I wish it were more. I wish it preserved your right to vote on this. Even more, I wish I had the gavel in my hand so I ensure you ALWAYS had that right.
I’m proud to have helped create a bill that will at least give our workers the help they need, even if it falls short of what they actually deserve from their legislature.
[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]