LANSING — About 150 people from around the state rallied in downtown Lansing on Wednesday to urge Michigan lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage.
Workers say they can’t earn a living wage on $7.40 an hour, Michigan’s mandatory minimum for hourly workers.
“Our hard-working families can’t make ends meet no matter how hard they try when they’re working for minimum wage,” Kalamazoo business owner Nick Boyd said to the exuberant crowd of demonstrators. “We have to have a fair wage in the state of Michigan.”
Working full time on Michigan’s minimum wage equates to an annual salary of $15,400 before taxes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines poverty as earning $15,510 a year less for two-person households and earning $23,550 a year for four-person households.
The “day of action” was sponsored by Michigan United, a coalition of labor unions and progressive groups that often organizes demonstrations at the Capitol. The demonstrators wanted Michigan lawmakers to sign a pledge supporting an increase in the minimum wage.
Democratic lawmakers introduced bills earlier this year — one in the Senate, two in the House — to incrementally raise Michigan’s minimum wage to either $9 or $10 an hour over the next couple years.
The bills have been referred to legislative committees but haven’t been taken up yet by the Republican-led legislature. And it’s unlikely — at least in the short term — that they ever will.
“It’s not a priority, given everything else that we’re focused on right now,” said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.
“We have a lot of things we want to accomplish that will focus on making it easier and less expensive to do business in Michigan, because we believe that will create more jobs,” Adler said. “If you force additional costs on employers, you will often see a decline in the number of jobs available or the number of hours available to those working already.”
Kristen M. Daum is a state government reporter for the Lansing State Journal. Contact her at email@example.com