Voters Win One for a Change in Michigan

Disparities Legislation Voting Rights Workers

            New Orleans       Certainly January 6th was an assault on everything we believe about democracy in the United States, because it was a dramatic attempt to undue the will of the American people as expressed throughout the country in their election ballots.  In that case, despite the continued furor, it didn’t work, and Joe Biden has been president since his inauguration.

Tragically, there are many other efforts by politicians to thwart the expressed will of the people and their votes that have worked.  Gerrymandering is a direct affront to popular democracy as parties and office holders try to maintain power, position, and their turn at the public trough, even when their party has become a minority by jumping on the scale with both feet to tilt it their way.  In other cases, like choice for example, conservative politicians, very often older white men, seemingly could care less about the majority opinion in their states favoring choice or by what women might want for their lives or even their health in some situations.

All of which makes the news from Michigan where there was one of the more egregious examples of a conservative, Republican legislature’s attempt to overturn the expressed votes of their citizens in 2018.  At the time there were two initiatives on the ballot.  One would set a new minimum wage in the state, while the other would deal with paid sick leave.  Voters overwhelmingly approved both measures.  The legislature in fact had approved of both measures having met the legal criteria to go before the voters, but then a terrible thing happened on the way to implementation.  The legislature met and rather than abiding by the vote, amended the measures materially. They thought they had gotten away with it, which, in fact was true, at least until now.

The matter was brought to court in Michigan and here comes the judge.  Let me quote from a bulletin from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC),

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Douglas Shapiro ruled that the “adopt and amend” tactic by the Republican-led legislature in 2018, which altered the two voter petitions, was unconstitutional.  The first petition, if it was not amended, would have raised Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 by 2022. Instead, the Legislature had raised it gradually to $12.05 by 2030, delaying the full amount by eight years.  And the second petition would have required employers to provide paid sick leave for workers. The Legislature then altered it to exclude employers with fewer than 50 employees and limiting the amount of annual mandatory leave at larger employers to 40 hours, instead of 72. The change affected around 1.9 million workers in the state.

Sadly, this undemocratic band of legislators will probably still go to their donors claiming they saved them millions with a four-year delay, and, worse, this decision will likely be appealed, so the fight for democracy, as well as fair treatment of workers, is far from over.  Even more unfortunately, Michigan workers will not see any of the money they voted for wages and leave paid back to them now.  But, at least they can hope that democracy still counts, that judges will follow the law, and that they will finally see justice in the future, in spite of the actions of an anti-democratic and anti-worker legislature.