Republican Senator Proposes Raising Michigan's Minimum Wage

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

"I want to alert everybody to what's going to happen to a lot of my good friends, waiters and waitresses trying to make a living, a lot of college students and single moms, a lot of hardworking people that want to keep their job that's going to go away if this ballot initiative passes."

-- Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge

Lansing, Mich. (WILX) Republicans have stayed pretty firmly in the "no" category in the debate over whether to raise the minimum wage in Michigan.

Until Thursday.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, unveiled his plan to raise the state's minimum pay 75 cents an hour. He says it's more reasonable than the nearly $3 an hour increase supported by labor and civil rights groups in a ballot proposal that could be decided by voters in November.

"This is a very serious problem, we're going to lose businesses and we're going to lose a lot of employment if it goes through in the matter that it's written," Jones said.

"I want to alert everybody to what's going to happen to a lot of my good friends, waiters and waitresses trying to make a living, a lot of college students and single moms, a lot of hardworking people that want to keep their job that's going to go away if this ballot initiative passes."

His plan would bring the minimum wage in Michigan to $8.15, up from the current $7.40 an hour, while also increasing the minimum rate for tipped employees from $2.65 to $2.75 an hour.

He argues those numbers--not the $10.10 being pushed by "Raise Michigan"--won't tank the state's restaurant industry.

"An average restaurant in my area would lose $250,000 a year, some would close, most will lay people off," Jones said.

The Michigan Restaurant Association also came out Thursday in support of Jones' proposal calling it "infinitely more reasonable" than the ballot initiative.

"It's a very interesting proposal that we're looking at closely," said Justin Winslow, speaking over the phone Thursday.

"What 'Raise Michigan' is proposing is dangerous, it's drastic, it's a one-in-a-nation type of proposal eliminating the tip minimum wage."

But Dessa Cosma-King with the "Raise Michigan" coalition isn't buying it.

"Currently the minimum wage forces families to cast a choice at the end of each month, whether they're going to pay for food or their rent," she said.

"Raising the minimum wage just a little bit as Sen. Jones' proposal does, doesn't actually lift families out of poverty."

Cosma-King says she's encouraged to see Republicans recognizing the current minimum wage is inadequate but maintains Jones' proposal isn't nearly enough.

The voter-initiated legislation led by "Raise Michigan" wants to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017 and also wants the tipped rate to increase 85 cents each year until it matches regular minimum wage.

For Cosma-King, it comes down solely to an issue of fairness.

"Nobody should work full-time, live by the rules and still live in poverty," she said.

The "Raise Michigan" group needs to collect 258,000 signatures by the end of May to get the measure to the Legislature. If lawmakers do not act on it within 40 days, it will be up to voters in November.


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