Michigan GOP starts gutting $12 per hour minimum wage, paid sick time laws

click to enlarge GOP Senate Majority Leader Alan Meekhof and Rick Snyder: It never stops with these ghouls. - Arlan Meekhof/Facebook
Arlan Meekhof/Facebook
GOP Senate Majority Leader Alan Meekhof and Rick Snyder: It never stops with these ghouls.

In a gift to the state's corporations and rich, Michigan Republicans on Wednesday started the process of gutting new, separate laws that would raise Michigan's minimum wage to $12 per hour and mandate paid sick time for the state's workers.

The GOP-led Senate this afternoon approved significant changes to the citizen-initiated laws in a party-line vote. The House will likely take up the issue next week.

The minimum wage law would have increased the state's paltry $9.25 per hour minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2022, and included a $12 per hour minimum for tipped employees. The Republican changes slow the increase to $12 per hour by 2030, and caps the increase for tipped workers at $4 per hour.

The paid sick time law would require employers to provide 72 hours of sick time annually, or nine days, while allowing one hour of sick time accrual for every 30 hours worked.

The Republican amendment exempts certain employees and would reduce the number of sick days to four. It would also require employees to work 40 hours to earn one hour of medical leave.

What makes the changes extra dirty is the manner in which Republicans are going about it. Throughout 2018, citizen-led groups gathered signatures to put proposals for paid sick time and increased minimum wage on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The proposals are popular with state's residents and were likely to pass. But Republicans made them law in September, which kept them off the Nov. 6 ballot. However, the GOP made sure that the laws didn't go into effect until March so they could gut them during the lame duck session, which started today.

There's nothing that the Democratic minority in the state legislature can do to stop Republicans, however, the move may violate the state's constitution.

Mark Brewer, an attorney and former head of the Michigan Democratic Party, is representing the citizen-led groups that organized the ballot proposals. He has said One Fair Wage, the group that organized the minimum wage ballot proposal, will sue if Republicans approve the changes.

Brewer points to a 1964 opinion by then-attorney general Frank Kelley that states that changes to citizen initiated laws cannot take place in the same legislative session. So while the GOP may win the battle in lame duck, the war is far from over.

It's also worth noting that the GOP lost the popular vote in the state House in 2014 and 2018, and only won by 3,000 votes in 2016. Still, it currently holds a 63-47 majority, because Republicans gerrymandered the state's legislative districts. So, arguably, a government that the majority of people didn't want is killing a raise and paid sick time for low income Michiganders.

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