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Michiganders Seek $9.50 Minimum Wage

February 10, 2014

Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press

Feb. 10--LANSING -- Michigan's minimum wage could go up to $9.50 an hour if supporters of a ballot proposal get their petition language approved and can collect more than 258,000 signatures.

The Raise Michigan coalition, which supports an increased minimum wage -- Michigan's is currently $7.40 an hour -- planned to submit the petition language to the Secretary of State later today.

The new Michigan wage would be phased in over three years and would be indexed for inflation. It also would raise wages of tip workers, like waitresses and bartenders, who are now paid $2.65 per hour, at a rate of $.85 cents per year until it reaches $9.50.

The proposal follows a national trend of states looking to increase their minimum wage and President Barack Obama calling for a $10.10 minimum wage for federal workers in his State of the Union address last month.

The minimum wage debate has been raging across the nation as fast food workers have staged protests calling for pay hikes. Several states and cities have increased their rates well above the federal level of $7.25 and at least four more states are gathering signatures for ballot proposals on the issue for 2014.

The group must turn in at least 258,609 valid signatures from Michigan voters by July 7. The citizen initiated legislation would then be turned over the Legislature. They could approve the proposal and it would automatically become law. If they did nothing or reject the proposal, it would go on the November general election ballot. Three bills calling for an increase in the minimum wage have been introduced in the Legislature in the last year, but haven't been given a hearing.

Frank Houston, director of Restaurant Workers Operating Center in Michigan which is part of the coalition, said his group has pledged $300,000 to the petition drive effort, which could cost at least $1 million.

"This is a very popular issue," Houston said. "Our goal is to not just put something on the ballot, our goal is to get people out of poverty who ar working hard and playing by the rules."

Many Republicans and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce oppose the issue, saying it will lead to higher prices for goods and the loss of jobs for businesses who can't afford the higher wage.

"If Michigan increases the cost of employing entry-level workers, lower-skilled workers will see less job opportunities because employers will be forced to hire higher-skilled job applicants to fill multiple roles or cut jobs to absorb the costs associated with the increase," said Wendy Block, Director of Health Policy and Human Resources for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Contact Kathleen Gray at 517-372-8661, kgray99@freepress.com or @michpoligal on Twitter.

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(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: Supporters ask Michigan voters to OK minimum wage of $9.50


Source: (c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

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