During a year in which the political drama just won’t end, Republicans in Michigan have managed to pile onto their voter suppression in a devilishly ingenious way. Yesterday, during a lame duck session just months after passing the minimum wage and paid-leave legislation workers in the state were clamoring for, Republicans gutted their own legislation, accomplishing the con of the holiday season in the process.
First, it’s important to know that activists in the state had already collected the necessary number of signatures to have a minimum wage and paid-leave question on the ballot. In doing so, voters would be able to bypass state legislators (who clearly opposed the measure) by voting it in themselves. Sensing the impending success of the ballot question, Republican legislators voted in September to legislatively pass a minimum wage and paid-leave bill. At the time, regardless of who got credit, it seemed like a win for the Michigan working class. Only a few people figured that Republicans were playing chess, not checkers.
Republicans in the statehouse knew that the legislation they passed could be easily amended— not so with legislation passed by a ballot initiative. That they waited until the lame duck session to hold this vote, as well as others limiting the power of the incoming Democrat governor and his administration, is a form of professional pettiness and un-democratic vindictiveness rarely on clear display.
So, barely three months later, these very same Republican legislators who passed the original legislation have voted to gut it to the point where it is almost unrecognizable. For instance, the $12/hr minimum wage will not go into effect until 2030 now, not 2022. Also, and perhaps worst of all, the minimum wage will not be indexed to inflation, virtually ensuring that the $12/hr over a decade from now is woefully inadequate. Republicans also voted to decrease the number of hours a worker can earn in paid sick leave.
While Americans, unfortunately, have become somewhat accustomed to being ignored in the legislative process, Republicans in Michigan did more than just overrule the majority of voters. They tricked voters into thinking they agreed with them, then pulled the rug from underneath them. Hopefully voters in the state have long memories, and will vote against every legislator who decided to take them out of the equation when it comes to the minimum wage and paid-leave when their names appear on the ballot again.