ROC United Statement on the Lawsuit Filed Against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
May 12, 2021
DETROIT— The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan today responded to the lawsuit filed against Attorney General Dana Nessel for failing to reverse an unconstitutional opinion that blocks efforts to raise the state’s minimum wage and provide earned sick leave for all workers.
Dr. Alicia Renee Farris, chief operations officer of ROC United, and is one of the signatories on the lawsuit filed Tuesday by a group of Michigan workers and advocacy groups, issued the following statement:
“Today, we all came together to correct the wrongdoing, defend the rights of hardworking families and the sanctity of Michigan’s constitution.
“If Attorney General Nessel only took heed of the voice of Michigan workers, who put her in office, and rescinded the unconstitutional opinion issued by her predecessor, nearly 2 million workers by now would have earned the much-needed paid sick leave time to protect them and their families, especially in this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
“Hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers in the state still earn as low as $3.67 per hour, many of whom continue to struggle to make ends meet. As the ‘people’s lawyer,’ Nessel should have led and paved the way to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2022, instead of obstructing these crucial efforts that would lift low-wage workers out of poverty and give them the quality of life that they deserve.
“We are asking the court to declare the 2018 amended laws unconstitutional, and order enactment of the legislation initially proposed: $12 minimum wage by 2022, not by 2030, and mandatory paid leave of 72 hours, not 42 hours, for all workers in the state.
“It is unacceptable for Nessel to continue supporting the Legislature that engaged in an ‘adopt and amend’ strategy. The will and welfare of the people — not corporate profit — is paramount to our democratic process.”
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In 2018, the Michigan One Fair Wage (MOFW) Ballot Committee and Michigan Time to Care, led by ROC Michigan and Mothering Justice, successfully collected enough signatures to put two initiatives — raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour and providing paid sick leave to all workers — on the ballot.
With both initiatives slated to go before voters on the 2018 general election ballot, state legislators opted to pass the measures into law during the lame-duck session in order to block voters from having the ability to vote on them.
But Attorney General Dana Nessel has continued to refuse to supersede or rescind the 2018 opinion on the constitutionality of the changes to paid sick time and minimum wage initiatives, saying the Supreme Court had agreed to hear arguments. Her predecessor, Republic Bill Schuette, endorsed the ‘adopt and amend” strategy’s legality.
On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, 16 months after the state Supreme Court declined to issue a rare advisory opinion on the legality of the move, a group of Michigan workers and advocates filed the lawsuit against Nessel.
The suit says the state constitution forbids the Legislature from amending an initiative petition enacted in the same session. Therefore, the laws are “null and void,” and the original bills are “in full force and effect.”
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About ROC United Michigan
Founded in 2008, the Michigan chapter is a large and active chapter of ROC United. We consist of hundreds of restaurant workers, employers and engaged consumers statewide, united together to improve working conditions and raise wages in the restaurant industry.
The Michigan chapter, as it reflects the mission and vision of ROC United, works to improve restaurant workers’ lives by building worker power and uniting workers of various backgrounds around shared goals and values. Our vision is a society that treats restaurant workers with dignity and respect. We envision a restaurant industry that prioritizes racial and gender equity as it strives to increase the standard of living for all working-class people.
Learn more at rocunited.org/michigan.