Michigan House Republicans vote to gut $12 per hour minimum wage, paid sick time

Dec 4, 2018 at 8:25 pm
click to enlarge Michigan State Capitol. - Shutterstock user Dimitriy Bryndin
Shutterstock user Dimitriy Bryndin
Michigan State Capitol.

The Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday evening voted to gut Michigan's recently approved $12 per hour minimum wage and paid sick time laws.

That comes after the GOP-controlled Senate last week approved to the changes, and the bills will now head back to the Senate and Gov. Rick Snyder's desk for final approval.

It's the latest in a long series of controversial laws and changes to laws that the Michigan GOP is ramming through in lame duck ahead of Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer's Jan. 1 arrival. She'll break Republicans' hold on both legislative chambers and the governor's mansion, and would likely veto more of the GOP's controversial legislation.

The minimum wage law would have increased the state's meager $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 $12.05 per hour by 2030, and caps the increase for tipped workers at $4.58 per hour.

Adjusted for inflation, the new minimum wage increase could end up being a pay cut for the state's lowest earners.

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 would reduce the number of sick days to four and exempts businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which represent about 1 million of the state's roughly 4.2 million workers. 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.

There's nothing that the Democratic minority in the state legislature can do to stop Republicans, but the move may violate the state's constitution. Ultimately, the changes could be overturned by a court should a lawsuit be filed.

Democratic state Rep. Yousef Rabhi expressed frustration with the GOP's maneuver, telling Metro Times, "It's disappointing to see Republicans rob Michigan voters and defile the democratic process with such impunity."

"Today Republicans tore apart the American promise that if you work hard then you can earn a decent living and take care of your family," he says. "Their merciless and amoral actions in the darkness of lame duck circumvent the will of the voters and represent what we all hate about politics."

On Monday, the citizen-led group that initiated the paid sick time law announced it would resubmit ballot language to restore the original law. If approved, it could go in front of voters in 2020.

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