Minimum wage could be on Michigan’s ballot this year, MT community weighs in

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The Raise the Wage Michigan Ballot Committee’s proposal would increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2027, which could impact Meridian Township workers and business owners alike.

Michigan’s current minimum wage is $9.87 an hour. This would increase in one dollar increments over five years. After reaching $15 an hour in 2027, the initiative requires automatic adjustments for inflation each year. 

The initiative also seeks to end the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, for people with disabilities and people younger than 20-years old. The sub-minimum wage would be phased out by January 2028.

Local reaction

Michigan State junior Aiden Jacobson, who works at the Olive Garden on Marsh Road in Okemos, supports the potential minimum wage increase. 

As a college student responsible for tuition, housing and food costs, Jacobson said an increase to $15 is necessary not only for people like him, but also those who rely on minimum wage jobs for a living.

“I am completely for raising the minimum wage,” he said. “In the state of Michigan, the current minimum wage is only $9.87, which is not something someone can live off of. Living on $10 an hour is not sustainable for literally anyone.

“Earning more money while being a student would be extremely beneficial. Currently, I make below the supposed $15 increase, so I would definitely benefit from that,” Jacobson said.

One Fair Wage

Chantel Watkins is a spokesperson for One Fair Wage, the non-profit that filed the ballot campaign. She said the petition has reached just below 250,000 signatures — 350,000 are needed to make it onto the ballot.

“We have tons of people who are helping us all throughout the state,” Watkins said. “And everybody unanimously agrees that not only does the minimum wage have to raise but the cost of living that’s associated in our ballot is one of the most important pieces that it will continue to raise as well.”

Dale Belman is a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. He said the ballot campaign is part of a more general movement to increase the state’s minimum wage and voiced support for it.

“This has happened in a number of other, if you will, states already,” Belman said. “This is part of a movement that’s been going on for more than 10 years.”

Politicians

State Rep. Julie Brixie, whose district includes Meridian Township, also supports the petition, stating that wages in Michigan have not kept up with inflation over the years.

“I believe that people who are working 40 to 60 hours a week ought to be able to rent an apartment and raise a family on that, and that isn’t the case with the current minimum wage the way it is today,” she said.

Although she is in support of raising the minimum wage, she is also willing to have conversations about having exceptions for teenage workers under the age of 18 and employees in the restaurant industry that make their living on tips.

Scott Hendrickson, a Meridian Township Board trustee, believes a higher minimum wage will positively affect the citizens of Meridian Township.

“I think what we’ll see if this does pass and it goes into effect is that more people will be able to sustain their family without having to have two or three jobs, and they’ll be able to get into different housing, to better housing and all of this is good for Meridian Township because the better our residents do for themselves, the better our community will do as a whole,” he said.

He’s also happy to see that the petition is citizen led and reflects the will of the people.

“I’m hopeful that a citizen driven petition like this will show sort of the powers that be that there’s broad support for this initiative and I think there has been for a while,” Hendrickson said.

Playmakers is an athletic footwear store in Okemos. Jaquez Johnson, who is an employee here, supports the petition to raise the minimum wage in Michigan. <Photo credit: Jake Lyskawa>

Local businesses

Jaquez Johnson, a first-time employee at Playmakers running store in Okemos, is in support of the proposal.

“I’d say I’m for raising the minimum wage. I feel like we need more people to be incentivized to work, and increasing the minimum wage does that,” Johnson said. 

While he supports the increased motivation that the proposal could bring, he’s also aware of the effect it could have on local businesses. 

“With Playmakers being a local business, it may potentially impact them in a significant way by having them increase payroll,” Johnson said. “With it not being a large corporation, not having a huge bank account to sustain anything of that nature, it could potentially harm them.”

Business owners like Ryan Chen of Koala Bakery and Cafe feel it is necessary to pay employees more given the recent COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chen, who typically pays his employees $14/hour, has not wavered in the amount they earn despite the ongoing struggles that the pandemic presented to local business owners. 

“Everyone’s been struggling, not just business owners, but everyone. We had a hard time due to COVID-19, but so did everyone,” Chen said.

Koala Bakery and Cafe is located in Meridian Charter Township, Michigan. It’s owned by Ryan Chen, who pays his workers $14/hour despite local businesses taking a financial hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. <Photo credit: Jake Lyskawa>