The minimum wage has lately been a topic of debate on both a national level and here in Michigan. In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama made the case to raise the federal minimum wage by 2016 to $10.10 per hour from its current level of $7.25.
Although our state exceeds the federal minimum, it has not risen for over five years. The debate over increasing Michigan’s state minimum wage from $7.40 per hour is largely along party lines, just as in the U.S. Congress. In our state legislature, where Republicans hold the majority, the issue has been termed a “non-starter.” Therefore Michigan workers’ groups are working to get the issue on the ballot for the voters to decide.
Interestingly, as U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez pointed out in arguing for a higher federal minimum wage, Michigan has a long history of raising wages for the working class. Exactly a century ago, Henry Ford doubled his assembly line workers’ daily salaries to $5.00. While it was portrayed as a “gesture of generosity,” he also had a more pragmatic incentive – to decrease turnover. Nonetheless, he is widely credited with helping build America’s middle class.
The minimum wage debate breaks down to rather straightforward arguments. Those in favor say that workers need a wage that will allow them to live above the poverty level. Further, when people make more, they spend more, which helps the economy. Those against raising the minimum wage argue that the solution is to improve the economy, which will in turn drive wages up. Opponents of raising the minimum wage include those who employ the most minimum wage workers – the restaurant and retail industries. They argue that higher wages will necessitate higher prices for consumers. They also insist that most full-time workers’ wages are above the minimum.
All Michigan businesses, no matter their size, need to ensure that they are complying with both state and federal wage requirements, as well as all employment regulations for hourly employees, salaried employees, and high-level team members with employment contracts. Employment laws and regulations are changing all the time. It is essential for companies to have experienced legal and human resources professionals to make sure that they are following the law. This will not only help make more a more satisfied workforce, but help avoid costly fines and litigation.
Source: The Detroit News, “Fight over minimum wage hike brewing in Congress, Michigan” Marisa Schultz, Jan. 28, 2014