How Republican-Controlled Michigan Became The Seventh State This Year to Raise the Minimum Wage

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On Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law a bill that would repeal the current minimum wage law, raise the state minimum wage to $9.25 by 2018, and index the wage to inflation thereafter.

The bill was nearly identical to one proposed by Gov. Snyder’s probable Democratic opponent, former-Rep. Mark Schauer. Last year, Snyder’s office responded to Schauer’s proposal by saying that raising the minimum wage wasn’t “a burning issue,” and that it could have “unintended consequences.” Other previous statements also indicated Gov. Snyder opposed efforts to raise the wage.

So what happened?

The people of Michigan happened. Specifically, citizen-lead effort by Raise Michigan to put a minimum wage increase to $10.10 by 2017–and making that the tipped minimum as well–on the November ballot.

In Michigan, if a law that is the target of a ballot initiative is repealed, the initiative effort is canceled or at the very least thrown into legal doubt. Republicans in the Michigan legislature introduced a weaker minimum wage bill aimed at doing just that.

Faced with bad options, Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer and several of her colleagues opted to work with Republicans to strengthen the bill:

As disappointing as it was to see this legislation introduced, when it became clear that Republicans were intent on passing it and take that choice away from voters, I decided to roll up my sleeves, take a seat at the table and work to make significant changes to the bill to infuse it with some of the real demands of our workers.

The result was what happened today: a minimum wage increase passed with bipartisan majorities in both Houses was signed into law by a governor who previously opposed it.

Raise Michigan, for their part, will continue their effort to get the higher increase on the November ballot. They are still submitting nearly 300,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State.

In the meantime, even if the petition drive is truly scuttled, Michigan minimum workers will still see a raise of $0.90 an hour in September.

Photo by Raise Michigan on Facebook

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