News Story

Michigan Supreme Court rejects request to overrule canvassers’ action on $15 wage proposal

Court declines to override decision

An effort to place an initiative on the November 2024 ballot asking whether to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 has failed. The Michigan Supreme Court rejected a request to override the decision made by the Board of State Canvassers that will keep the question off the ballot.

The group Raise the Wage Michigan asked the state’s top court to overrule the Board of State Canvasser’s refusal to certify its petition to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2027. The petition, if the board had approved it, would have advanced to the November 2024 ballot.

The current minimum hourly wage is $10.33.

The board approved the petition language, first brought forth by Raise the Wage, to lower the threshold for making an employer subject to the minimum wage. The threshold would go from two employees to one. Raise the Wage, however, changed the wording when it then circulated petitions. The petitions said the law would apply to employers with 21 or fewer workers.

The court said this change could have eliminated the minimum wage for employers with fewer than 21 workers instead of raising the minimum wage for all employees.

The canvasser’s board deadlocked 2-2 and rejected the revised petition submitted for its final approval.

Justice Brian Zahra wrote a concurring opinion.

“It was abundantly reasonable for the Board to conclude that plaintiff failed to obtain preapproval of an accurate statement of the petition submitted for final approval, which, rather than increasing the minimum wage for all employees, may have served to eliminate it for thousands,” Zahra wrote.

The ruling cited polling from the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association that 61% of Michigan restaurant operators said they would lay off more than 25% of their tipped employees if the minimum-wage offset is substantially reduced or eliminated.

Zahra said the decision was best made by lawmakers and the democratic processes.

“As repeatedly indicated in similar cases, it is not the role of this Court to second guess and question the administration of election disputes properly left to the bipartisan oversight of the Board of State Canvassers,” Zahra wrote.

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the trade group MRLA, welcomed the ruling.

"We are relieved that the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with Michigan Opportunity that the drafting errors in Raise the Wage's submission were so significant as to render it fatally flawed,” Winslow said in a statement. “While the restaurant and broader hospitality industry still operate in the long shadow of the pending Adopt-and-Amend ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court expected later this year, this ruling will provide some solace to the nearly 500,000 industry employees and nearly 20,000 operators that they can return their focus to serving up Pure Michigan hospitality to millions of Michiganders every day."

Michael LaFaive, senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the ruling is “a win for Michigan.”

“It means greater opportunity for job seekers and for those who work under the tipped minimum wage,” LaFaive told CapCon. “Mandated minimum wages throttle opportunities for lower-income workers that can have long-term pay consequences. In addition, research and experience have shown that the net pay of tipped workers may decline. It’s not hard to see why. Restaurant goers presume their servers enjoy a much higher wage and are less likely to offer generous tips.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.