Elected Officials, Civil Rights Groups Urge Michigan Supreme Court to Strike Down the Legislature’s Unconstitutional Laws on Wages, Sick Time Benefits
Over 60 state and federal officials, dozens of diverse organizations filed 14 amicus briefs against “adopt and amend” maneuver
LANSING, MI — An unprecedented group of civil rights leaders, social justice advocates, community and labor organizations, state and federal elected officials, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, filed more than a dozen amicus briefs with the Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday, opposing the constitutionality of the legislature’s attempt to remove two proposals from the ballot. The two proposals, Michigan One Fair Wage (MOFW) and Michigan Time To Care (MTTC), would have raised Michigan’s minimum wage and required employers to provide workers with one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, respectively.
The briefs come from more than 60 elected officials and a diverse array of groups in Michigan that represent hundreds of thousands of workers, including those who receive tips, their families and communities. Providing practical and legal arguments, the briefs are in consensus: the legislature’s move, known as “adopt and amend” maneuver, is
unconstitutional and harmful public policy because it stymies the democratic process and the will of voters to propose and enact laws through public initiatives.
“We have never seen such a large number of elected officials and leaders from labor, faith-based, economic and social justice organizations stepping forward to uphold the rule of law,” said Dr. Alicia Renee Farris, state director of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) of Michigan and Michigan One Fair Wage Steering Committee Chair. “These briefs are a clear indication that the public understood the legislature’s illegal attempt to curtail our freedom and right to propose laws. We will never allow lawmakers who abuse their power to bypass the will of the voters.”
In May 2018, nearly half a million registered voters in Michigan signed petitions to place MOFW and MTTC on the ballot. However, instead of allowing voters to weigh in on the proposals, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the proposals into law to keep them off the ballot and then, during the lame duck session, gutted the earlier proposals that would have increased the minimum wage to $12 an hour in 2022 and provide workers with paid sick time that can be used for personal and family health needs.
An excerpt from the brief filed by Governor Whitmer stated: “The Governor of the State of Michigan agrees with the position advanced by the Attorney General and other supporting amici curiae that (1) the “adopt and amend” maneuver used by the Michigan Legislature in its 2017-2018 legislative session violated article 2, § 9 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, rendering Public Acts 368 and 369 of 2018 unconstitutional; and (2) an advisory opinion from this Court to that effect is necessary to ensure this scheme is never used again.”
“The defenders of PA 368 and 369 purport to rely on the Constitution’s “plain language,” “plain text,” or “plain meaning,” according to Representative Christine Greig, Representative Yousef Rabhi and 60 other members of the House and Senate in their brief. “But their repeated invocations of these and similar phrases cannot obscure one key fact: They cannot point to a single provision of the Constitution that purports to permit the Legislature to adopt a voter-initiated statute into law and then, in the same session, eviscerate it by amendment. Instead, they are forced to rely on constitutional silence—the absence of any provision explicitly forbidding the action challenged here.
“If permitted by the Court this unprecedented “adopt and amend or repeal” scheme heralds the end of the people’s century-old constitutional right of statutory initiative in Michigan because future legislatures will simply “adopt and amend or repeal” any proposal they dislike. During the past century this Court has been the people of Michigan’s last line of defense against repeated legislative attacks on their constitutional rights to direct democracy. The people of Michigan now once again turn to this Court to protect their constitutional rights as the Court has consistently done over that century,” said in the brief’s introduction filed on behalf of Michigan One Fair Wage and Michigan Time to Care. .
Nearly 80 percent of tipped workers in Michigan are women, many of whom are people of color and immigrants who live in poverty and access public benefits at greater rates than non-tipped workers. About 35 percent of tipped workers in the state are mothers.
Currently, the minimum wage in Michigan is $9.45 per hour. For tipped workers, however, the minimum wage is $3.59 per hour, driving many of them use food stamp and other public service benefits in order to provide basic needs for their families.
The elected officials and groups that filed the briefs include Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Representative Christine Greig, Representative Yousef Rabhi and 60 other members of the House and Senate, ACLU, National Employment Law Project for Leave, Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, Voters Not Politicians, Democrats for Life of Michigan, A Better Balance, Michigan State AFL-CIO, Michigan Association for Justice, Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, and Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice.
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