Minimum Wage Increases in Michigan

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These dollar amounts, not adjusted for inflation, are the maximum amounts the minimum wage can increase under The Workforce Opportunity wage Act passed in 2014, which caps increases at 3.5 percent. Beginning in 2019 minimum wage increases will be decided by the state treasurer using the consumer price index. Graphic by Dorothy Gacioch.

by Suni Jo Roberts

Deputy Editor

The new year brought a new wage increase for minimum-wage workers in Michigan. The increase, from $8.90 to $9.25 an hour, is the final set increase under Michigan’s Workforce Opportunity Wage Act of 2014, which outlines wage increases through 2018.

The state’s new wage is now $2.00 higher than the federal minimum wage, which was set at $7.25 in 2009. Michigan is ranked 15 out of 50 states based on its new minimum wage.

Student workers at WCC who earn the minimum wage welcome this increase.

“I personally am pretty happy to see this raise as someone who works two minimum-wage jobs and still never seems to have enough money, and it’s good to actually see a change in minimum wage alongside increased costs of living in Michigan,” said Olive Cianciolo, a 3D animation student at WCC, who works at the Barnes & Noble WCC campus bookstore. “While I would like to see a continued increase—as it’s still not a living wage on its own—I understand that this is likely to keep businesses from hiring what is even vaguely more than necessary. I’m not concerned that I—or any of my coworkers—will lose my job, which arguably hires too many people, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see less new faces.”

A living wage is a way to measure the amount of money a person needs to earn in order to cover their basic necessities; it is considered the bare minimum. A living wage does not consider savings for retirement, vacation, or eating out but does take into account the cost of housing, transportation, child care, health insurance, and other basic necessities and how these costs can vary geographically.

The living-wage calculator, compiled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calculates the living wage required for a family to meet basic needs while also maintaining self sufficiency.

The living wage calculated for Washtenaw County is $11.88 for a single adult living alone; this wage increases to $23.29 for an adult with one child.

“It’s better than it was; it has still got a ways to go,” said Michael Murphy, a part-time faculty member at WCC who teaches American government this semester.  “It should be at where people can meet people’s basic needs, because otherwise people need to be on welfare.”

Michigan Futures, a non-profit group that focuses on how Michigan can succeed in a knowledge-driven economy, says that this minimum wage increase is welcomed, but isn’t enough to be a living wage, and notes that the level is likely to be an issue in the future.

A report published by Michigan Futures notes that “maybe as much as half the jobs in the Michigan economy today don’t pay enough in wages and benefits to cover family necessities as defined by the Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW). There is no evidence that the proportion of low-paid work, most of which doesn’t include benefits, is going to decline going forward. Most jobs now and in the future will not be high skill, and therefore will not be highly paid.”

This concern has led to a push by the group One Fair Wage to collect signatures in order to put a $12 minimum-wage proposal on the November 2018 ballot.

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