Michigan Senate Votes to Gut Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Time Laws

The bills now go to the state House for consideration.

Jake Neher/WDET

The state’s minimum wage might not reach $12 an hour until 2030. That’s if proposed changes to a recently adopted law finish making their way through the state Legislature. The state Senate passed the changes Wednesday.

The law the Legislature wants to change was originally a ballot initiative that it adopted a couple months ago. It calls for a $12 an hour minimum wage 8 years sooner than the bill now before the state House.

Supporters of the original law are frustrated.

Lawrence Roehrig is President of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. He said the Legislature is working too quickly to gut a law the people wanted.

“This doesn’t spell democracy in my mind,” said Roehrig.

Part of the bill would also take the state back to a capped, lower wage for tipped workers. The current law eventually calls for a $12 an hour minimum wage for tipped workers.

“In 1989 I was making $2.52 an hour,” said 30 year restaurant industry worker, Tracy Pease. “In the matter of 30 years, I’ve had a one dollar raise. Let that sink in.”

But advocates of the changes say they are necessary to protect Michigan’s economy.

“We are doing what we believe is the best to keep Michigan’s economic engine going, providing the way for employers and employees to make their agreements together,” said Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive).

A spokesperson for the House of Representatives says it’ll start considering Senate Bill 1171 soon.

The legislature is also moving forward with changes to a citizen initiative on paid sick leave. The measure to require employers to offer earned, paid sick time got enough signatures to make the November ballot. But the Senate pre-empted that – in an effort to scale it back before it becomes law.

“It’s a complete disappointment that the Senate has changed what would have been a very inclusive earned sick time policy to one that has very little benefit for the majority of people that need it,” said Danielle Atkinson, chair of MI Time to Care. That’s the group that drafted the initiative and collected the signatures for the ballot.

The bill would reduce the total number of hours of paid sick time an employer would have to offer. It would also require workers to put in more hours to earn time off. And it would exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees.

Charles Owens is with the National Federation of Independent Business. He said unless the bill is passed, employers could have to slash worker benefits, pay, hours and jobs if changes are not made to the initiative.

“Mandating costs to employers does not magically create the revenue to support the cost of those mandates,” he said.

Senate Bill 1175 also now goes onto the state House for consideration.

Zach Gorchow, editor of the Gongwer state Capitol news service in Lansing, joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about these bills. Henderson also speaks with Michigan Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Business Advocacy Wendy Block about her organization’s support for these changes, as well as Ben Hall, owner of Russell St. Deli in Detroit about his advocacy in favor of raising the minimum wage.

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.
  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.