Michigan Workers Win Minimum-Wage Increase, Paid Sick Leave
Workers in Michigan won major victories recently as a minimum-wage increase and employer paid sick time program were reinstated by court order.
In 2018, petitioners succeeded in placing a minimum-wage increase along with an earned-sick-time provision on the November ballot. In turn, the Michigan Legislature passed the measures in September to avoid a vote on the referendums, then in a lame-duck session in December the Legislature amended the bills, delaying the wage increase and denying the full hourly rate to tipped workers. The sick-time provision also was changed.
Last month, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled amending the original bills was a violation of the state constitution, and the $12 minimum wage will now be instituted in February.
Alicia Renee Farris, chief operations officer of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, helped organize the ballot initiative and is calling it a victory for Michigan workers.
"This is really a victory for 685,000 Michiganders that do not make $12 an hour," Farris asserted. "We see that as very important particularly for low-wage restaurant workers."
The minimum wage for tipped employees is set to gradually increase to $12 per hour by 2024.
After Judge Douglas Shapiro declared the adopt-and-amend legislative maneuver unconstitutional, the State of Michigan asked for a stay pending appeal. Shapiro denied the request but did delay implementation until Feb. 19.
Mark Brewer, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the delay is due to the scale of the coming changes.
"This is a massive change. The paid sick time affects every employer in the state," Brewer pointed out. "Minimum wage obviously affects many employers and hundreds of thousands of employees, so the court said, 'Look, you can have a few months to make a transition here to fully implement these laws.' "
Litigation over the matter has not ended with the Court of Claims ruling, since the state of Michigan will next take its case to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Brewer noted the appeals court has agreed to speed things up.
"We did get some good news in just the last 24 hours," Brewer emphasized. "The court of appeals has agreed to expedite our appeal, and so we're hopeful to have oral argument in the court of appeals this fall, which would mean a decision early next year."
Upon implementation, the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation with adjustments made annually so long as the state unemployment rate remains below 8.5%.