Seeking the Pleasant Peninsula

On the Michigan Republican Party’s website one will find a list of “Republican Principles,” set forth in creedal form. One of those principles is: “I BELIEVE the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.” [1] One would expect, then, to find the Michigan Republican Party championing local government.  

But last month the Republican controlled state House of Representatives passed the Local Government Employer Mandate Prohibition Act, which “would nullify nearly all local labor standards that are higher than the state’s and prevent any future attempts from cities to put such measures into place.” [2] The bill is backed by “business groups including the restaurant lobby, chambers of commerce and the nonunion builders and contractors association….” A spokesman for the Michigan Restaurant Association expresses the hope that the legislation will “‘pre-empt local laws on all labor standards, but in particular, wage and benefit issues,’” opining that such issues are not within “‘the proper purview of local government.’” The bill is now sitting in a committee of the state’s Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans. 

One notable provision of the proposed bill prohibits any local government in the State of Michigan to enact a minimum wage higher than that of the state. [3] The intent is clearly to prevent Michigan municipalities from doing what Seattle, Washington and a number of cities in California have already done. 

This is really an odd thing to do for a legislature dominated by a party that claims to favor a “government closest to the people.” Perhaps suppression of wages is more of a priority for the Michigan Republican Party than are its expressed and advertised principles. Or perhaps we are foolish to imagine that its “principles” really mean anything at all. Maybe its “principles” are an exercise in cynicism, meant for the consumption of what the party hopes is a gullible electorate, while it goes about its true mission of representing the interests of one economic class against another. 

We’ll see what the state’s Senate does with the bill.  

Jack Quirk