The impact of a $15 minimum wage in Mid-Michigan

President Joe Biden has proposed a $15 minimum wage
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The minimum wage in Michigan is $9.45 per hour right now. That’s $2.25 higher than the federal minimum wage. But, that could change soon.

“We need to reward work, not just wealth in this country,” said President Joe Biden. “People on both sides in this country, it’s time to raise the minimum wage.”

Workers love the idea, but many business owners say they’ll have to pass the increase along to customers.

President Biden believes everyone working 40 hours per week should be making at least $15 per hour. President Biden introduced his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour on Friday, while also announcing an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $15 for federal workers.

The effect a $15 minimum wage could have on a city the size of Lansing, may be different than a larger city like New York, or Chicago.

“I think it’s not a bad goal to have,” says Henry Meyer, owner of Eastside Fish Fry and Grill in Lansing. “But, I think to just go from where it’s at now and almost doubling it, it’s going to hurt guys like me really really bad and really really fast.”

Meyer thinks that if the minimum wage goes up, prices will have to increase too. He’s worried customers will leave local restaurants and businesses for chains and big box stores. He thinks those stores could offer lower prices and would possibly receive tax breaks that people like him wouldn’t get.

I don’t think {customers} are going to say ‘oh well that’s why I make an extra $3 per hour now.’ They’re not going to think that. They’re gonna think Eastside Fish Fry is gouging.”

Sam Inglot who works for Progress Michigan says wages haven’t kept up with inflation, and it’s time the country fixes that.

“People understand, an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay,” Inglot says. “Right now people are not getting enough to survive on.”

Meyer says he’s prepared for this and what steps he, and other business owners could be facing.

“Small businessmen are probably going to have to decide who out of my employees-- who’s the weakest links, right? I got to find two or three people to shed right now, and train these guys up better so that they’re worth $15 per hour, you know?

Michigan’s minimum wage was supposed to rise up to $9.87 per hour this year. But, state law required that to be put on hold, because the average unemployment rate for 2020 was more than 8.5 percent.

“Every time a minimum wage conversation gets brought up, the corporate lobbyists, and the, you know, big corporate chain lobbyists, say, ‘the sky is going to fall.’ Yeah, well guess what, Michigan raised its minimum wage and, you know, the sky didn’t fall,” Inglot adds.

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