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Wednesday, September 18,2013

‘$7.40’s got to go’

Protesters demand Legislature to raise state minimum wage to $10 an hour

by Andy Balaskovitz
Al Williams, of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, rallies a crowd outside of Lansing City Hall today to raise the state\\\'s minimum wage. Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse

Wednesday, Sept. 18 — While opponents of raising the minimum wage commonly say that it’ll hurt employers, over 100 protesters outside of Lansing City Hall today argued just the opposite. That doing so empowers consumers — and thus employers.


“My boss says raising the minimum wage will hurt him as an employer,” Sam Johnson of Warren, Mich. said today at a rally to raise the state’s minimum wage. Johnson is a pastor at a small church in Detroit and also works a fast-food job making “less than a dollar more than the minimum wage.”


“He doesn’t understand that people will have more money to come in there,” he said. “When you give people more money, they don’t hide it,” he said.


That’s also the message behind a report by the National Employment Law Project, which says pending legislation that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $10 an hour would pump over $1.1 billion into the state’s economy. The NELP supports raising the minimum wage nationwide. Consumer spending represents about 70 percent of the country’s economic activity. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.


A bill introduced in April by state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, calls for incrementally raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $10 an hour by 2016. After that, it would be raised relative to inflation. It’s still sitting in the House Commerce Committee.


Three Rivers resident Samantha Drake, who originally grew up in Flint, has been on her own since she was 16, she said today. Now 20, she once worked a waitressing job at $2.65 an hour along with a job in clothing retail.


“I was threatened with a miscarriage because I was working so much,” she said of those years. Now she’s working two jobs, upwards of 90 hours a week sometimes.


“A raise in the minimum wage means hope,” she said.


Today’s rally comes nearly three weeks after fast-food workers in Lansing picketed outside of a Pizza Hut on South Cedar Street, demanding $15 an hour wages. It was part of a nationwide batch of fast-food restaurant walkouts.


Al Williams, representing the Detroit chapter of the NAACP today, called on demonstrators to contact legislators about the raise. Today’s rally, organized by Michigan United, was followed by meetings this afternoon with legislative offices.


“$7.40’s got to go!” he chanted with the crowd. “This is sad.”

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