Group seeking to raise Michigan’s minimum wage submits signatures for 2024 ballot amid legal battle

Judge says state Legislature’s amendment of 2018 minimum wage proposal was unconstitutional

This Wednesday, June 13, 2018, photos shows U.S. currency in Zelienople, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) (Keith Srakocic, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Hundreds of thousands of signatures were submitted Tuesday to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office for a minimum wage ballot measure seeking to land itself in front of Michigan voters in 2024.

Organizers behind the Raise the Wage MI ballot initiative reportedly delivered more than 610,000 signatures on Tuesday, July 26, to Michigan officials in an effort to qualify the proposal for the 2024 ballot. Organizers did not submit signatures in time to be considered for the November 2022 ballot.

One Fair Wage, a national advocacy group leading the initiative, is seeking to raise Michigan’s hourly minimum wage to $15 over the course of five years by amending the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act that was adopted, in part, in 2018. The proposal then seeks to increase the state’s minimum wage annually based on the rate of inflation -- a process that is called “indexing.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, minimum wage is indexed in 18 states and in Washington, D.C., meaning it is “automatically adjusted each year for increases in prices.” Economic analyst David Cooper says that by indexing minimum wage, the hourly salary never loses its value -- and it’s written into law that the wage will rise by a certain amount depending on a specific formula, so politicians are not deciding the number.

Learn more: Minimum wage: How we got here and why it’s not working

The 2018 Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act proposed to increase Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2022, then establish an indexing plan that would raise the wage each year by a rate that is automatically adjusted for inflation.

The Michigan Legislature adopted the 2018 act, but modified it, changing the “2022″ deadline to “2030.” The lawmakers established a schedule for minimum wage increases each year in Michigan, with plans to reach an hourly wage rate of $12.05 by 2030.

The state’s current minimum wage is $9.87 per hour, which is an increase from $9.65 as of Jan. 1. Michigan’s minimum wage is a few dollars higher than the national minimum wage, which rests at $7.25 per hour and has since 2009.

However, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled last week that the state legislature’s altering of the adopted 2018 ballot measure was unconstitutional (you can read the entire decision below). In 2018, the Republican-led state Legislature adopted two ballot proposals -- the minimum wage act and a proposal guaranteeing sick leave -- after they cleared the signature threshold, but lawmakers made changes to the proposals first.

But that doesn’t mean that the state’s minimum wage would automatically be raised to $12 an hour right away, as written in the original version of the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act. State attorneys have already appealed the court of claims’ decision in an effort to uphold their amendments to the 2018 proposals.

The case is expected to make its way through the court system and reach the state supreme court for a final decision.

More: Michigan court ruling could put $12 minimum wage into effect, require paid sick leave

US minimum wage over time

Between 1938 and the late 1960s, the federal government raised the minimum wage at a fairly consistent pace with the nation’s productivity level -- meaning that as the workforce was able to produce more money, the minimum wage was being raised at roughly the same rate, analyst Cooper said. By the end of the 1960s, however, minimum wage laws were not given the same consideration.

Data shows that the federal minimum wage increased during the 1970s, but inflation was also rising significantly at that time -- essentially rendering the wage stagnant throughout the decade. Conditions did not improve in the 1980s, when inflation continued to rise, but the federal government chose not to adjust the minimum wage in response.

The minimum wage was slightly raised at a few points in the 90s, and then a few times in the 2000s -- and then it stopped.

When adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage was actually 33% lower in 2020 than it was in 1970. When adjusted for inflation, minimum wage reached its peak in 1968.

Here’s a look how minimum wage has changed throughout U.S. history, and how it compares when adjusted for inflation.

The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is currently $2.13 per hour, as long as a person earns at least the federal minimum wage with that rate plus tips.

So, what should the minimum wage be now?

If the federal minimum wage was raised at a consistent rate alongside productivity levels -- like it was in the 1960s -- the minimum wage would be around $23-$24 per hour today, Cooper said.

“In the late 1960s, minimum wage was equal to about half of the median wage,” Cooper said. “Today, it’s equal to less than one-third of what a typical middle-class worker in the economy makes.”

The Raise the Wage MI ballot measure also seeks to phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers in the state. The current minimum hourly wage for tipped Michigan workers is $3.75. Click here to review the entire proposal for the initiative.

Find the entire Michigan Court of Claims order below.

Find more information on Michigan’s minimum wage for tipped workers below.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.