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Campaign Sets Sights on Higher Minimum Wage

Minimum wage campaign sets its sights at $10.10
By Rick Pluta

The campaign to increase Michigan's minimum wage has upped its goal to $10.10 an hour in four years.

The petition drive had initially set its sights on raising the state minimum wage from its current $7.40 an hour to $9.50 by 2016, and then indexing the wage to inflation. The new wage target is part of an amended filing with the state.

"I'm excited that I will be able to vote for $10.10 an hour," said restaurant worker Aisha Thurman in a written statement released by Raise Michigan. That's the petition campaign to increase the minimum wage.

 "Even though tipped employees like me will only be getting a raise of $.85 a year, it really does help," she said. "Everyone deserves fair pay."  

Thurman is a member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, which is part of the Raise Michigan coalition.

Organizers of the campaign say polling and other feedback convinced them they could be more ambitious. Also, most minimum wage campaigns in other states call for an increase to $10 an hour or more. And President Obama has called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and promised to sign an order that guarantees at least that wage for federal contract workers.

The campaign is waiting for a decision from a bipartisan state elections board that its petition meets all the technical requirements in Michigan law. The Board of State Canvassers has a scheduled meeting Wednesday on the petition.

Once the petition is OK'd, the campaign will have to gather 258,088 signatures of registered voters to put the question before the Legislature. If the Legislature does not approve a petition for a citizen-initiated law, the question goes on the November ballot.

Business groups oppose the increase. They say it would discourage hiring, and that the minimum wage should be set only by the federal government.

"There are legal questions, economic questions, and political questions," said Richard Studley, president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.  

"We are closely monitoring…" the minimum wage campaign, he said. "The fact that the number keeps moving around shows $10.10 is rather arbitrary."