Sunday, June 8, 2014

Minimum wage changes coming to the mitten state

On the road to riches…well not quite, but it does seem that a majority of the women in Michigan will see a positive change in their paychecks courtesy of a minimum wage increase happening over the next 3 years.  
We have seen the stats before; in Michigan women make up more than 6 of 10 minimum wage workers (1). Beyond standard minimum wage employees, women also make up an even larger majority of tipped workers. Nationally, women fill approximately 75% of these tip based positions (3).  Currently, in Michigan, tipped employees make an hourly wage of $2.65 (2). Many of these women also find themselves raising a child or children on these wages. Nationwide, as many as 1 in 5 of these women are also working mothers (4).

Michigan is not the only state in the spotlight looking to make waves with increasing minimum wage. Beyond the state level there are also local municipalities seeking to make headlines and history as they push their minimum wage rates to record highs. Arguably: the most notable being Seattle, WA. The city of Seattle has officially approved an increase taking their minimum wage up to $15.00/hour over the coming years. Many hail this as a victory which will spiral across the country impacting other impressionable cities.

If you have been watching or reading the news of late, you may recall that in addition to the bill which recently passed through both the Michigan House and Senate, there had been a ballot initiative in the works. That ballot initiative was seeking to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 (6). With Governor Snyder having signed the $9.25 increase into law it effectively has put to rest the alternative. Even those who were opposed to a hike in general, found themselves supporting the successful bill out of fear that the alternative would have been worse for the economic standing of the state. Regardless, minimum wage employees in Michigan will start to see increases in their wages as early as September (5).

Personally, I remain pretty torn on the minimum wage issue as I understand how complex it can be. I have heard the arguments for and against time and time again. I worry that the overall number of positions will be affected by what an employer feels he/she is able to afford with the increase in expenses. I also understand that on the most basic level a minimum wage position may not be designed to make a living on. There is a problem with that argument though. The world is not perfect and this is not a perfect economic market. Men and women alike are finding themselves in minimum wage positions for extended periods of time simply because that is all there is right now. Additionally, many of these working mothers find themselves in the positions simply as a result of needing to be able to care for their child and the schedules better allow for that to take place. Should people be able to get rich while working within an entry level position? The answer is of course not, but there is certainly no reason that those affected should not be able to provide the necessities for daily living.  

Is there a perfect balance, a solution that will make everyone happy? Let’s be realistic, probably not. I do however feel that this middle ground is not a bad option for those on both sides of the isle. The increase may not be as high as what was initially desired but it is reasonable and will still have a positive impact for many Michigan residents. In the meantime, we can make our voices heard. Tell your legislative representatives what you want. If the men and women serving now are not serving your interests, show up to the polls next time around and try to make a change.

What do you think, is this the right move for Michigan? Should the increase have been more substantial as originally proposed? Or is this increase, despite its undeniable benefits to women, not worth the economic risk? 

- Cat Griebe


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