A Republican move to weaken minimum wage and paid sick leave ballot initiatives in 2018 was constitutional, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Thursday, keeping intact current wage and benefit requirements that were scheduled to spike Feb. 20 under a lower court decision.
For now, the minimum wage will stay at $10.10 and not rise to $13.03. The tip credit, which workers can be paid as long as their tips bring them to at least the regular minimum wage, will remain $3.84, not $11.73.
The restaurant industry has warned of ramifications, especially if the higher tipped wage goes into effect, though worker advocate groups support parity between regular and tipped wages. Employers also have been preparing for significant changes in leave requirements.
The ruling will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. Should the high court ultimately reverse the decision, however, Thursday’s ruling is likely to forestall wage and benefit changes for months.
In 2018, Republican lawmakers passed two ballot proposals rather than let them go to voters, and then, after the election, amended the laws with majority votes and then-Gov. Rick Snyder’s support to make them more palatable to businesses.
The measures would have been much harder to change if they had been passed by voters. That would have required at least three-fourths votes in the House and Senate and the backing of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2019 or later.
“The initiatives successfully forced the Legislature to act on the policies contained in the proposals. Then, in amending the proposals, the Legislature continued to address those issues with all the legislators’ constituents’ interests in mind,” Judge Christopher Murray wrote. “These circumstances show that this initiative process was not only consistent with the process contained in art 2, § 9, but was consistent with the purpose of the provision: to obtain legislative action on a subject matter of concern to the people (or at least eight percent of them).”
Judges Michael Kelly and Michael Riordan concurred in separate opinions.
“Although this procedure is permissible under the language of our constitution, this ploy — adopting an initiative into law so as to prevent it from going onto the ballot and then promptly and substantially amending that law in a manner that has left it essentially defanged — is anti-democratic,” Kelly wrote. “I cannot believe that this drastic action is what the drafters of our constitution even contemplated, let alone intended.”
In July, Court of Claims Judge Douglas Shapiro declared that the tactic was illegal because legislators had three options: reject the laws and let them go to voters, propose alternatives to also go on the ballot alongside them or enact the initiatives without change.
From Crain’s Detroit Business.