Michigan judge delays potential minimum wage hike until February 2023

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A Michigan judge delayed on Friday the fallout of a ruling that could bring a hike in the state's minimum wage and new statewide requirements for paid sick leave, saying there were "justified concerns" about employers' ability to immediately accommodate the changes.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Douglas Shapiro issued an order on Friday, 10 days after he decided a pair of 2018 voter-initiated laws should be put into effect and deemed Republican lawmakers' strategy to circumvent them unconstitutional.

In his past decision, Shapiro declared GOP-backed laws that altered the original initiatives on the minimum wage and sick leave "voided." The original initiatives, which were the result of statewide petition campaigns, "remain in effect," Shapiro wrote.

Art Reyes of We The People leads a protest outside the Michigan Chamber of Commerce in Lansing on Dec. 3, 2018, over proposed changes to minimum wage and paid sick leave initiatives.

Attorneys for the state sought to delay enforcement of the ruling, arguing that businesses and residents deserved predictability.

Shapiro said those seeking to appeal his decision were "not likely to prevail on the merits." But the judge said it was in the public interest to stay the effect of the decision for a period of time equivalent to how long it would have taken the original initiatives to take effect over 2018 and 2019: 205 days.

Under his order, the initiatives would now take effect on Feb. 19, 2023.

But further litigation is expected in the meantime.

In 2018, Michigan One Fair Wage circulated petitions to have voters consider a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022 from $9.25, at the time, and tie the rate to inflation. That same year, Michigan Time to Care backed a proposal to generally require employers to provide paid sick time to their workers.

However, the GOP-controlled Legislature adopted the two initiatives before Election Day, preventing the measures from seeing statewide votes.

The moves allowed lawmakers to return after Election Day and change the laws with simple majorities. If voters had approved them, future changes would have required a three-fourths super majority of support in both houses of the Michigan Legislature.

Republican lawmakers slowed the minimum wage increases, so the minimum wage would climb to $12.05 by 2030, eight years later than under the original proposal, and removed a connection to inflation for future increases.

In addition, the legislative version eliminated a provision that sought to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers so it would match the standard minimum wage in 2024. The current minimum wage for tipped workers is $3.75 an hour.

The lawmakers also altered the sick-leave law, exempting small businesses that collectively employed more than 1 million workers from a policy that initially would have applied to every company.

"The new laws, therefore, substantially amended the original laws proposed by the voters," Shapiro wrote on July 19. "The process effectively thwarted the intent of the people and denied them the opportunity to vote on whether they preferred the voter-initiated proposal or the Legislature’s suggested modifications."

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, has said his organization is strongly encouraging higher courts to halt Shapiro's ruling "during the inevitable appeals process."

"If this were to be immediately implemented, the chaos it would wreak on the already battered hospitality industry during peak travel season would be almost inconceivable," Winslow said.

The general minimum wage in Michigan is currently $9.87 an hour.