Minimum wage workers earned more this past week than they did in 2015, due to Michigan’s minimum wage increasing from $8.15 to $8.50 on January 1 of this year.
The increase is the third step in a legislated five-step increase that began in 2014. In 2018, minimum wage will increase to its final step, to $9.25. For years beyond 2018, the legislation requires that the minimum wage have an annual increase that is indexed to inflation.
Tipped workers also got a small minimum wage increase, from $3.10 to $3.23. This is also part of the five-step increase mandated by the legislation. However, the legislation also states that the tipped minimum wage will always be 38% of the regular minimum wage.
As the Michigan League for Public Policy has written before, having such a low wage floor for wait staff and other tipped employees passes the risk of slow business or stingy customers onto the workers, many of whom cannot afford to lose the money.
As shown in the accompanying map, five other Midwestern states have tipped minimum wages higher than Michigan’s. Minnesota has a tipped minimum wage of $8, more than twice the amount of that in Michigan. (It is also worth pointing out that Minnesota’s unemployment rate is consistently much lower than Michigan’s unemployment rate.)
So while we can celebrate the fact that the minimum wage for both regular and tipped employees has just increased, let’s also continue to advocate for a fairer minimum wage for tipped workers. There are bills in Michigan’s Legislature that would eliminate the tipped wage altogether (House Bill 4720 and Senate Bill 373).
We can urge our legislators to support and pass these bills, which will pay a more fair wage to the workers who serve our food and provide other services for which we pay. At your state legislator’s town halls and coffee hours, will you bring this up and tell them to support ALL workers in your community?
— Peter Ruark