‘I’m insulted’: Service industry worker berates Michigan lawmakers over minimum wage, sick time maneuvers

    House Competitiveness Committee hearing, Dec. 4, 2018. | Nick Manes

    Longtime service industry worker Tracy Pease told House members on Tuesday morning that she was “insulted” by GOP maneuvering to override citizens who supported a minimum wage increase via ballot proposal.

    The comments came during a hearing of the GOP-led House Competitiveness Committee, in which members voted along party lines to advance legislation that would negate petitioners and weaken measures raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing paid sick time.

    Citizens collected enough signatures to put initiatives on the Nov. 6 ballot raising the minimum wage and mandating paid sick time for workers. But to prevent the proposals from ending up on the ballot, the GOP-controlled Legislature in September adopted both measures. Legislation raised the minimum wage from its current rate of $9.25 per hour to $12 per hour by 2022. Tipped workers, who have a $3.52 minimum wage per hour, would also see an increase to $12.

    However, as expected, the Legislature has moved after the election to gut major parts of the laws. The Senate last week voted to delay raising the minimum wage by almost $3 by 2022.

    Both issues are of particular interest to the restaurant and hospitality industry, in which workers largely work for tips. Many employees also report having to work when sick.

    “I’m insulted,” Pease said during impassioned testimony in which she informed committee members that she’s barely received a raise during her decades as a waitress in the Detroit area and has frequently had to work while sick in order to guarantee that she is paid.  

    “Do you know how many times that you’ve all gone out to eat and your server has been sick and she can’t go ahead and leave — and you want to go ahead and give me a 4-cent raise?” Pease continued. “That’s absolutely insulting. Nobody is obligated to tip me, but I can tell you what you are obligated to do. You’re obligated to go ahead ahead and listen to the 373,000 people that went ahead and said ‘put this on the ballot’.”

    Following the committee vote supporters of the ballot initiatives lined hallways of the Anderson House Office Building in downtown Lansing chanting, “Shame, shame, shame.”

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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