Michigan GOP Lameduck Session: Keep The Tired And Poor Tired And Poor!
In September, the Michigan state legislature passed two initiatives meant to help the working class. One would raise the state's minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022 (2024 for tipped workers, who were making $3.54 an hour at the time the initiative passed), and one that guaranteed workers one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. By no means were these initiatives ideal, but hey -- they were something!
And now they're not.
Last week, in a lame duck session, Republicans in the legislature rushed through an amended version of the bills that wouldn't raise the minimum wage to $12 until 2030 (and the wage for tipped servers to only $5.73), and give workers one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours. The bills will soon go to Gov. Snyder, who is expected to sign them.
Now, you may be wondering why, exactly, the legislature went through the trouble of passing the initiatives to begin with if they were just going to rip it to shreds. Was it for shady-ass reasons? Did they purposely ratfuck this bill? Yes! And yes!
You see, the organizers behind One Fair Wage, the group that created the initial bills, got enough signatures to get them onto the ballot in November. But Republicans didn't want that. That would have ended poorly for them and the business owners who opposed such measures actually becoming law. Instead, they passed the One Fair Wage bills to keep them off the ballot with the intent of ratfucking it during the lame duck session before all the Republicans who got voted out left. And that's exactly what they did.
Yesterday, hundreds of outraged voters went to the capitol to protest this bullshit.
Passing a good bill before an election to appeal to voters and then rescinding it after said election is skeevy enough, but to do something like that explicitly for the purpose of not letting people vote on it because you're afraid they won't vote the way you want them to? That verges on totalitarianism.
Some lawmakers are trying their best to make this not seem as gross as it actually is:
The GOP-sponsored bills were done to ensure that "it maintains the spirit and intent of the initiative," said Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who sponsored the changes to paid sick leave. "In other states where this has passed, it has led to increased incentives to not hire people and a cacophony of lawsuits between employees and employers."
Yeah, except that in 12 years $12 is not going to be a decent minimum wage. It's not even a living wage now.
For the 45,000th time, businesses are not just going around hiring more people than they need regardless of how low the minimum wage is. Almost every single service industry job I've ever had was "currently understaffed" for almost the entire time I worked there. There was a lot of "Ooooh, you can't take any days off, ever, because we all need to pull together and rally through this trying time! Also we're gonna need you to take on managerial duties without actually getting paid a manager's salary or getting promoted or taking you off hourly, because that would mean we'd have to pay for your health insurance!" shit happening, and that's when the minimum wage laws were low. They kept the hours erratic as well to make it harder for people to leave -- if you can't schedule an interview, if you can't afford to take a few hours off, you can't get another job. This was all done on purpose. It wasn't because the businesses were suffering, it was because they were greedy and they knew they could get away with it.
The fact is, too many people have worked these sorts of jobs to not know what's up. They've already seen their bosses get rich while they struggled, while they were told they'd have to work harder and do more to make up for said bosses not wanting to hire more people. They know they deserved more. They know the bosses were not hiring more people than they needed, regardless of how low the minimum wages were. They are not stupid. You cannot spit in their faces and tell them it is raining.
If someone were to say "I want to own my own store, but it just costs too much to buy products to stock it!" or "I want to own a restaurant, but I can't afford the whole food-buying part of it!" they would likely be told, "Well, then I guess you can't afford to have your own business." But, if the issue is not being able to afford employees at a fair and reasonable cost, the answer is to make sure those employees are as cheap and desperate as possible. This then works out for the politicians who can count on some of the money that could have gone to employees lining their pockets instead, so long as they promise to keep those employees cheap and desperate.
The fact that they were too scared to put the initiatives on the ballot is, oddly enough, something of a good sign. It means they know good and well that these initiatives are popular, that people are wising up, that they want fair pay for a fair day's work, and that this isn't going away.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse