F for no effort: Michigan fails working families

Workplace policies have been on the minds of many over the past two years, with minimum wage and right-to-work rising to the top of debate in Michigan.

Yet, two important labor issues have not received nearly as much thought, despite their relevance to a wide number of Michiganians: paid sick days, and family and medical leave.

A new report by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws that Help New Parents, could bring this issue the attention it requires. According to the report, Michigan is one of 17 states to score an F in family-friendly workplace laws for new parents, and it is the only Great Lakes state to receive this grade. Other states in the failing grade category include Alabama and Mississippi.

The National Partnership for Women and Families awarded each state points for state policies that support new parents in the private and public sector. Specifically, the group looked at the existence of state laws that exceed family and parental leave guarantees under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act; maternity leave to prepare for and recover from pregnancy and child birth; sick time flexibility to care for a new child or ill partner; workplace accommodations for pregnancy-related physical limitations; and workplace accommodations so new birth mothers who have returned to work can continue to provide breast milk to their new babies.

Michigan, along with other F-grade states, does not have any such enhanced protections for new parents, and was not awarded any points. In contrast, other Great Lakes states such as Illinois and Minnesota each received passing grades (B and B-minus, respectively). California received the highest grade, A-minus, among all states in the report, while Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and the District of Columbia each earned a B-plus.

As in the rest of the country, most Michigan families (98%) have at least one parent in the labor force. In fact, according to 2012 Census data, a majority (67%) of married couple families with minor children are dual-income families where both parents work to provide for the family.

Given the preponderance of working families with minor children in the state, laws that expand federal protections for working families in times of illness or the arrival of a new child are a policy imperative.

– Yannet Lathrop

Minimum wage increase: A step in the right direction, but not enough

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The governor hastily signed legislation last week increasing the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. Though this is certainly progress in the right direction, this will still keep a family of three under the federal poverty line, which is about $18,500 a year.

This was all done in an attempt to nullify the efforts of a proposed minimum wage ballot campaign to increase the wage to $10.10 an hour, which would lift a family of three above poverty by roughly $1,200.

Just think of what this could do for a family who could then better prepare for needs that arise, such as buying new school clothes for a child, being prepared for a medical emergency, or simply being able to pay their bills on time or in advance. (more…)

Senator’s claim smells fishy

Two out of the last three times the minimum wage was raised, Michigan’s unemployment rate decreased in the years that followed.

That indisputable fact makes a recent claim from state Sen. Pat Colbeck, R- Canton, surprising.

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News reported last week the senator’s assertion that raising the minimum wage will decrease the rate of employment “every time.” This false claim needs to be corrected. (more…)

A Mother’s Day minimum wage story

Imagine being a single mother, working full time and still living in poverty. Imagine losing your job after calling for a higher minimum wage so you can earn enough to care for your children.

That’s what happened to Donyetta Hill, a hardworking mom to three children who, prior to finding work as an organizer for ROC-Michigan, was working full time at a fast food franchise in Detroit.

Donyetta’s wage was exactly the state’s minimum of $7.40 an hour, or just $1,184 monthly before taxes. This amount left her unable to put food on the table without assistance, and pay rent or other bills on time. (more…)

Could you buy your groceries on just $42 per week?

Last week was 2014’s National Week of Action, or Economic Security Week, organized by the Progressive States Network.

During this week, legislators across the nation participated in events and activities that lift up a shared progressive vision for economic security in America. In our state, Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, representing Wayne County, were two of the legislators who stepped up to take the minimum wage grocery challenge, purchasing their groceries on just $42. (more…)

What’s your agenda for Michigan?


Consider this: This November, voters will elect a governor, all 38 state senators and all 110 state representatives.

Clearly, it’s an important year for our state’s future. The Center for Michigan, described by founder Phil Power as a nonpartisan “think and do tank,” wants your input. What issues do you want elected officials to address on the campaign trail – and in the state Capitol once they are elected?

The League is hosting a Community Conversation, one of many held around the state, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, 600 W. Maple St. Lansing. (more…)

Raise Michigan raises hope

The possibility of a long-overdue increase to Michigan’s minimum wage is on the horizon with the kickoff of the Raise Michigan campaign to put the issue before voters on the fall ballot.

If successful, it will raise Michigan’s $7.40 an hour wage minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. It also includes a gradual increase of the $2.65/hour “tipped” wage for restaurant servers.

With so many problems to report on – rising income inequality, growing number of low-income working moms and shrinking windows of opportunity for our young people – it’s good to be able to talk about a positive solution. (more…)

League vs. Mackinac Center on the minimum wage

Recently, I’ve had two opportunities to debate the Mackinac Center on the minimum wage. The events took place at the Hauenstein Center of Grand Valley State University and on a public affairs show on WGVU, the public station at Grand Valley.

The minimum wage has been on the minds of many lately – particularly after fast-food workers held rallies and called for an increase to $15 per hour, and a ballot campaign formally launched last month.

On one side of the debate are those who understand that $7.40 is too low – at this wage, full-time work is just $15,400 annually. On the other side are those who are opposed to increasing or even having a minimum wage at all. (more…)

Minimum wage — not just your summer job

Long gone are the days when minimum-wage jobs, such as those in food service, were the province of suburban teenagers starting their working lives. A great majority (85%) of low-wage workers in Michigan are at least 20 years old, and 82% have a high school degree or higher. Nearly a quarter of them are also parents supporting children according to a report by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

These facts suggest a reconsideration of the minimum wage, not as pocket change for teenagers, but as wages for adults who are responsible for themselves, and perhaps for young children. (more…)

How do we increase family economic security? We increase the minimum wage!

As they do every year, the Economic Policy Institute recently released their 2013 Family Budget Calculator. Unlike other measurements of economic security, such as the Federal Poverty Line, this calculator goes beyond giving us a rough idea of the income levels that separate abject poverty from modest poverty or moderate incomes.

Rather, the EPI calculator suggests the minimum income needed for a family to raise children in an economically secure environment.

Using EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, we estimate that a one-parent, one-child family living in Detroit would need an annual income of $49,356, or an hourly wage of $23.73, to live modestly but economically secure. In rural Michigan, this same family would need an annual income of $44,790, or an hourly wage of $21.53.

A Detroit household consisting of two parents and two children would need an annual income of $66,896 to be economically secure. If both parents worked full-time, an hourly wage of $16.08 would allow them to earn this modest annual income. If this same family lived in rural Michigan, their annual income would need to reach at least $62,058, and the parents’ hourly wage would need to be at least $14.92. (more…)

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