Petitions submitted for ballot initiative to raise Michigan minimum wage to $15

Shawntay Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit     Activists and state officials for national worker coalition One Fair Wage on Tuesday submitted petitions for a ballot initiative petition that would boost Michigan's minimum wage to $15 and eliminate subminimum wages.

 More than 600,000 signatures were collected in the effort to put the question to voters in 2024, said One Fair Wage co-organizing director Maricela Gutierrez. Initiatives need a little over 340,000 valid signatures to make it onto the ballot

Maricela Gutierrez, co-organizing director for One Fair Wage, speaks during an event Tuesday to celebrate turning in petitions for a ballot initiative that would raise Michigan's minimum wage to $15.

Advocates for the proposal gathered Tuesday at the Yum Village restaurant on Detroit's east side after submitting signatures to the Secretary of State's office. Supporters at the gathering included Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel and state Sens. Stephanie Chang and Mallory McMorrow.

"This is a really exciting moment because it is a marker in history where we are stating, unequivocally, that in the State of Michigan, our people and elected leaders need to declare that working people deserve ... a wage that can support a family," Gilchrist said.

The petition's filing comes after a Michigan judge ruled this month that a pair of 2018 voter-initiated laws increasing the minimum wage to $12 and instituting paid sick-leave requirements for employers should be put into effect, saying Republican lawmakers' strategy to circumvent them violated the Constitution. Before the initiatives could reach the ballot, both were adopted by the GOP-controlled Legislature, which then slowed wage increases and eliminated the proposal to increase subminimum wages for tipped workers. The action by lawmakers kept the current hourly minimum wage at $9.87. The judge's ruling is expected to be appealed. 

Michigan State Senators Stephanie Chang, left, and Mallory McMorrow speak during an event at Yum Village, in Detroit, July 26, 2022, by the group One Fair Wage to celebrate turning in signatures for a petition initiative for a $15 minimum wage.

"We're going to get it back on the ballot," McMorrow said. "We saw the court decision. That is a huge move in the right direction but as we saw in the recent Dobbs decision on the federal level, court rulings are also not settled. So that requires all of us getting into it."

Nessel said, "I remember watching this process unfold in the State Legislature, where you had two Republican majorities who adopted the language of these very popular ballot proposals and then proceeded to wait until late to completely gut them."

Michigan Chamber of Commerce President Jim Holcomb said the latest ballot initiative and the judge's decision to overturn the Legislature's actions could do more harm than good to families. 

"Such a provision could generate significant harmful, unintended consequences for Michigan employers and employees alike, spurring a ripple effect to our state’s job providers and in turn, our families, communities and economy – ultimately hurting the very workers it purports to lift up," Holcomb said in a statement.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during an event at Yum Village, in Detroit, July 26, 2022, by the group One Fair Wage to celebrate turning in signatures for a petition initiative for a $15 minimum wage.

And Brian Calley, chief executive officer of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said, "This type of government action is a big part of the reason we are now facing such devastating inflation, which hurts lower-income families the most. We should not make a bad problem worse with this proposal."

Nessel said it boils down to providing families accessibility to financial stability.

"Every person in the state of Michigan should be able to pay their electric bill and to put food on their family's table. You shouldn't need to have three jobs in order to support yourself and your family."