State board deadlocks on minimum wage petition
A petition campaign to gradually raise Michigan’s mandatory minimum wage to $15 an hour appears to be heading to court. That’s after an evenly divided state board deadlocked on whether to certify the petition signatures.
The issue argued before the bipartisan, four-person Board of State Canvassers was whether a change in the initiative language was substantive enough to stall the effort. The change would make the required increases in the wage apply only to businesses with 21 or more employees.
But Raise the Wage attorney Mark Brewer said any judgment on whether that change matters is outside the board’s purview.
“The only issue before this board this morning is whether there are enough signatures to certify the proposal for the ballot and there are,” he said.
The campaign submitted more than 610,000 petition signatures with the Michigan Bureau of Elections last year, but not in time to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The group is now aiming for the 2024 general election ballot. The question would go to voters only if it’s not adopted first by the Legislature.
Republicans on the board said, given the questions in play, they are not comfortable giving the go-ahead without a court order.
“We have a well-organized effort with lots of funding that either changed something randomly without letting us know or made a mistake and are simply not owning up to it,” said GOP canvasser Tony Daunt. “I think this is a clear no vote for me.”
A coalition of business organizations, Michigan Opportunity, is opposed to the initiative. The group said the discrepancy could have led to some voters adding their signatures who would have otherwise refused.
“The clear dissonance between the proposal summary and actual language should disqualify this proposal altogether," the group said in a statement. "No one reading the summary could possibly have understood the true impact and apparent intent of this proposal, meaning hundreds of thousands of people were misled into signing this petition.”
Andrea Hansen is a lawyer for Michigan Opportunity.
“No one looking at this petition would have any idea that the ‘Raise the Wage’ was intending to change the definition of an employer,” she said.