Raise the Wage Michigan files lawsuit over blocked ballot proposal


By Kyle Davidson, Michigan Advance

Raise the Wage Michigan, a coalition advocating for increasing the state’s minimum wage, has filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Supreme Court following the Michigan Board of State Canvassers’ decision last month against certifying a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage to $15 and phase out the tipped wage. 

During a special meeting on Oct. 20, the board — which is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans — deadlocked on the proposal after a dispute on the petition’s language. 

In a statement, One Fair Wage, an advocacy group backing the measure, said this challenge to the proposal is a “direct obstruction to the democratic process, highlighting the partisan nature of this crucial issue.”

According to Raise the Wage Michigan, the initiative collected more than 360,000 signatures from Michigan residents, with the effort needing to gather 356,958 to be placed on the 2024 ballot. 

One Fair Wage slammed the board’s decision in a statement. 

“The Republicans refusal to certify an estimated 360,309 signatures to block higher wages  from the ballot in 2024 is a partisan attempt to stop democracy. These efforts reflect the continued hostile tactics by the restaurant lobby to prevent voters from passing this overwhelmingly popular measure signed by more than 600,000 Michiganders,” said Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage. 

“Our lawsuit, filed to protect the voice of hundreds of thousands of voters, asks the Court to approve the signatures because the Board of State Canvassers had previously approved the form of the petition used to collect them. We look forward to winning the battle in the Michigan Supreme Court and winning a higher minimum wage on the ballot for workers next November,” Jayaraman said.

At the meeting, members of the board debated whether a language change to the petition during the 2022 election cycle which changed the requirements for which employers would be affected by the proposed law, with Republican Member Tony Daunt arguing language changing the policy’s scope was misleading to the voters who signed in support. 

Last year, the board declined to put abortion rights and voting rights measures on the November 2022 ballot. The Michigan Supreme Court stepped in and ordered them to go before voters. Both constitutional amendments passed.