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Michigan Supreme Court denies 2024 wage initiative; supporters say fight isn’t over

LANSING -- A proposal to raise Michigan’s minimum wage will not make the 2024 ballot, despite what supporters say is widespread public support for the proposal.

The state Supreme Court, which is involved in two minimum wage cases, issued a ruling last week on the latest initiative effort, ruling that a proposal to put a wage question on the 2024 ballot would not go forward.

The initiative had gained enough signatures to appear on the November ballot but was not certified by state canvassers following concerns about the language.


A change was made to the petition in the circulation process that altered the state definition of an employer, which canvassers said could have led to hundreds of thousands of supporters being misled.

The bipartisan Board deadlocked on the initiative, sending the question to the courts.

One Fair Wage, organizers of the ballot initiative, called the decision a partisan effort to suppress Democratic turnout this November.

“What we’re seeing once again, is yet another attempt by Republicans to keep voters from having the right to decide,” said Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage.


Opponents of the proposal have said that increases in wages, particularly the elimination of tipped wages, would increase costs for businesses and result in lower wages for workers.

“Each and every tipped employee that I personally know — which are in the hundreds, if not thousands — I don’t know of one that wants this to pass,” said John McGee, a Traverse City restaurant owner.

A majority of servers and restaurant owners have said in polling that they anticipate the changes would hurt their earnings. McGee said that the public may be supportive of higher wages but not be aware of the specifics regarding tipped earnings.

The other case regards a 2018 ballot initiative that was passed into law but significantly altered by the then-Republican-controlled legislature, pushing the proposed wage raises through 2030 rather than 2022. Without these changes, Michigan’s minimum wage would currently sit at at least $12 per hour.


That case is still pending before the state Supreme Court, which could issue a ruling any time before July 31.

If a ruling is issued raising the wages of workers, McGee said that restaurants would likely be forced to raise menu prices, institute a new service charge or let employees go.

“Or you’re going to have just people closing their doors and basically cutting bait because it’s going to be a very difficult situation for for all of us,” he said.

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