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Coalition Aims to Get Minimum Wage Hike on Michigan Ballot

March 6, 2014

Last month, Raise Michigan, a coalition of civil rights, labor, faith, and community groups, launched a campaign to collect over 250,000 signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the November 2014 ballot for voters to approve.

If successful, the state minimum wage will increase from $7.40 to $10.10 by January 2017, and tie future increases to inflation. It would also raise the $2.65 per hour minimum wage for tipped employees, such as waiters. The wage for tipped workers would increase by 85 cents per year until it equaled the regular minimum wage. Recent polling of Michigan voters shows strong support for raising the minimum wage.

The Michigan League for Public Policy estimates (pdf) that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would raise income for almost 1 million Michigan workers.

For Michigan direct-care workers, raising the state’s minimum wage would provide a needed income boost. Direct-care workers in the Michigan Home Help Program currently earn $8.00 to $8.50 per hour, depending on the county they work in — a wage set by Medicaid policy. Personal care aides in Michigan have a median hourly wage of $9.76, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In addition to raising worker’s incomes, raising the minimum wage could also help in recruiting and retaining staff to support elders and people with disabilities. Surveys (pdf) of providers in Medicaid-funded home and community-based long term supports and services programs, completed in 2012, showed that low wages were a significant challenge to finding and keeping staff to do this valuable work. These same surveys point to an average starting wage of $8.97.

“We hear almost universal support for ‘higher wages’ for all of Michigan’s direct-care workers,” said Hollis Turnham, PHI Midwest director. “Raising the state’s minimum wage presents an opportunity to make that support a reality, and to set wage rates at a level that will address the significant recruitment and retention challenges that have been identified by providers and those who use long-term supports and services.”

— by Tameshia Bridges Mansfield, PHI Midwest Program and Policy Manager

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