More than a dozen people gathered outside U.S. Sen. Gary Peters' (D-Mich.) Detroit office on Monday to support a provision in the latest coronavirus relief package to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
“We talk about these people being heroes, essential workers, these people basically keeping our society running and the economy running,” said Joshua Moore of One Wage Michigan, which helped organize the rally. “And if you're saying all these things, then they deserve the wages that they need in order to thrive in the midst of this pandemic."
Peters and most other Democratic senators support the minimum wage hike proposed in a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package by President Joe Biden. But opposition from at least one moderate Democrat – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has previously taken issue with such a sharp increase – could block channels to move the legislation through the upper chamber with the support of all 50 Democrats through a process known as reconciliation.
The wage increase could directly affect as many as 1,050,000 Michigan workers, according to analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
Angelina Gonzales is Detroit resident who has worked in various minimum- and low-wage jobs in the restaurant industry for the last ten years. She says the uncertainty that comes from jobs that rely heavily on tips makes it hard to make ends meet on a regular basis.
“Your check can go from you can have a really good amount one week where you're making $500,” she said. “In the next week ... you are only getting a $75 check.”
Gonzales said she was asked to work extra hours after a few coworkers left their jobs, leaving her with more hours and added exposure to COVID-19. She says that was the last straw for her as an expectant mother.
The 21-year-old has since made La Taco Bay, a catering business she picked up as needed into her primary occupation. Gonzales said she’s hired staff and pays higher than the state minimum wage, which increased to $9.65 at the start of this year.
The pandemic prompted a change for Lisa Ludwinski, who owns Sister Pie bakery in Detroit. Instead of hiring to fill positions vacated as COVID-19 began to sweep across the country, she raised wages for those who stayed on to a minimum of $17 an hour.
"With the pandemic, it was kind of a wake-up call for me as a business owner that I can't really wait, and that if my business can't do that now, then I don't have a right to be in business,” Ludwinski said.
The House is expected to vote on the coronavirus package at the end of the week before it moves to the Senate, where it is expected to face intense debate.