DETROIT (AP) - President Barack Obama is bringing the minimum wage fight to Michigan.
Michigan, as it turns out, is already fighting.
Obama, who has endorsed legislation to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2016, will speak Wednesday on the issue at the University of Michigan. Democrats in the U.S. Senate are planning votes on a bill, but Republicans are working to block it.
Similarly, GOP lawmakers in Michigan are unlikely to embrace a minimum wage hike, so a coalition of civil rights, faith, labor and community groups wants voters to decide.
Raise Michigan needs to gather 258,000 valid signatures by late next month to put before the Legislature a measure that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $10.10 an hour by 2017 and automatically increase it with inflation in future years. The minimum wage for tipped employees would gradually increase from $2.65 until it reaches the minimum wage for other workers.
“People in Michigan shouldn’t be working full time and still living in poverty,” said Ryan Bates, one of the organizers of the Raise Michigan effort. “The issue resonates deeply. Everyone understands what it means to work hard but not get ahead.”
Michigan Restaurant Association CEO Brian DeBano said Raise Michigan’s proposal is “well-intentioned,” but wrong for the state, saying it “will not only increase menu prices and cost Michigan jobs, it will put many restaurants out of business.”
If Raise Michigan secures the requisite number of signatures and state lawmakers do not act on the measure, it would head to a statewide vote in November.
It’s hard to say how the issue would fare on the ballot, but recent polling indicates there is support.
According to a survey of 600 likely Michigan voters conducted Feb. 5-11 by EPIC-MRA, 60 percent of respondents supported raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, while 36 percent opposed it. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Each party found something it liked in an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Democrats advertised the finding that increasing the minimum wage would boost earnings for more than 16.5 million Americans while lifting 900,000 above the federal poverty level by 2016. Republicans pointed out the analysis also found that employment would be cut by about 500,000 jobs.
Wallace Hopp, senior associate dean at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said “the political statements we keep hearing that minimum wage laws are job killers simply doesn’t jibe with the facts.”
According to “extensive research that has been done on whether minimum wage hikes have a significant impact on employment,” Hopp said, “the preponderance of evidence is that they do not.”
The event Wednesday marks Obama’s third visit to Hopp’s school as president, which university spokeswoman Laura Lessnau said is a record.
Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson each came to the University of Michigan three times and alumnus Gerald Ford more than that, but none was on campus as the sitting president three times.
Obama spoke at commencement in 2010 and talked about college affordability during a 2012 appearance.
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