Opinion: Court's minimum wage ruling should satisfy people, law
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for voting and other civil rights often earns mentions, but his legacy includes another vital effort: the elevation of workers’ rights. In fact, it was just one year after passage of the Voting Rights Act that King joined with other progressive leaders such as A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin to pen a “Freedom Budget” for all Americans, which sets its sights on ending poverty for all.
As we appear no nearer to that lofty goal than we were some 50 years ago, it is galling that some of our elected leaders would create impediments that keep so many of our citizens struggling to make ends meet. Yet, that’s what the Michigan Legislature did when, during its lame-duck session last December, it gutted a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour for all workers, including those receiving tips.
Specifically, instead of letting voters have their say on the wage increase measure that more than 400,000 citizens asked to be on the ballot, the Legislature substituted its own paltry version. It pushed the $12 minimum out by eight years from now and pegged the minimum for tipped workers to rise only from $3.52 to $4.58 over that same time period.
This switch raises questions of ethics and morality – and lawyers have further argued that it was done in direct violation of our state’s constitution. They cite the constitution’s Article II, Section 9, which states that “any law proposed by initiative petition shall either be enacted or rejected by the Legislature without change.”
Seems fairly clear, doesn’t it?
Though their moral compass didn’t move because 1.1 million workers would have been afforded a more livable wage, and though their sense of democracy wasn’t impacted because the will of 400,000 petitioning voters was thwarted, still, I submit that we should at least expect our elected officials to uphold and respect the constitution and follow the laws of our state.
The Michigan Supreme Court has a chance to side with the rule of law when it hears arguments about this issue in July. As it stands right now, the justices have consented to hear arguments July 17 about whether the court should grant an advisory decision on the Legislature’s actions.
I hope that our justices find the case worthy of their deliberation. And I hope others will join me in asking for an appropriate outcome of the hearing.
In 1 Peter 2:23 it says, “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” I’d like to think that verse offers guidance for others who judge on Earth.
We count on our justices to ensure the rule of law, and fairness for the less fortunate.
The Rev. Coleman is the senior pastor at New Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Saginaw.