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Minimum wage and trust issues

Updated: Thursday, June 5, 2014
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - There were congratulations all around last week when the Michigan Senate, in an astonishing display of speed and bi-partisanship, passed a new minimum wage law.

Under the law, the minimum wage in Michigan will rise from the $7.40 it is now to $9.25 over the next four years.

Tonight in Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says--all the celebrating aside--as the old saying goes, there are two things you really don’t want to see being made: sausage and legislation.

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Excuse me for not joining the victory dance.

Its not so much that I don’t trust lawmakers--and I don’t.

It’s because I know this law is another example of how our lawmakers don’t trust you and me.

Most of you know what happened. But let me briefly explain anyway:

Our people in Washington were talking about a minimum wage hike--but with a million lobbyists saying it was better to keep people in poverty, that effort landed with a thud.

So, in Michigan, a grassroots petition drive began to amend the law to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

There were some problems with it. Waiters and waitresses were included and that would have been a problem with our system of tipping for service.

But, nonetheless, it largely echoed what 70 percent of us thought anyway: it was time for a wage hike.

The petitions were signed by 320,000 people, and it seemed certain that the question would make it’s way to the November ballot where passage would be virtually assured.

But our Republican lawmakers were bothered by this. Not only would the law enrage some business owners and some wealthy backers, having an issue on the ballot that might rally Democratic voters just can’t be a good idea.

Its messy. Things might get out of hand.

So up jumps Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville--Republicans have a majority in both houses so it ought not be necessary to point out Richardville is a Republican--with an idea.

No sense in risking anything with another pesky voter-driven effort; let's repeal the minimum wage law and replace it with a new one that falls short of what the voters might approve of. That way the petition, which seeks to amend the wage law, would be irrelevant, null and void, as cold and tasteless as a week old cup of coffee. You can’t amend a law that has been repealed.

And you know how long it took to get all that done? And did I mention that Democrats joined in, to make the repeal and replacement a bipartisan effort?

It took one day. I mean, there had to have been some groundwork that took a few hours, but when push came to shove--one day!

Remarkable what can be accomplished when you don’t trust voters and have to move fast.

Now the petition people are upset and say they may take their case to court...and I hope they do.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Republicans, meantime, are claiming victory. So are Democrats. So is the Governor who signed it into law almost immediately.

And that’s all fine. The only people left out in the cold are the people who pushed the envelope with a petition drive in the first place.

They get part of what they wanted, but their victory is about as exciting as twin beds.

Politicians here, there, and everywhere urge us to trust them. And then spend millions, even billions of dollars to convince us to vote for them.

It can only mean they don’t trust us, left to our own devices, to do the right thing.

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on August 05, 2015 07:27 GMT

DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Payroll processor ADP reports today on how many jobs private employers added in July. The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade gap for June and the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for July.

Corporate earnings reports are also expected.

GENERAL MOTORS-PLANT INVESTMENT

FLINT, Michigan (AP) -- General Motors says it's investing $877 million to upgrade an assembly plant in Flint.

The company plans to build a new, 883,000-square-foot body shop for Flint Assembly, which makes full-size pickups for the Chevrolet and GMC brands.

The new body shop will be closer to the Flint Metal Center, which supplies sheet metal to the plant. Construction is expected to begin in early 2016 and finish in 2018.

Flint Assembly, which opened in 1947, is GM's oldest plant in North America. GM says the upgrade will reduce the time and cost to ship parts between the two plants.

TOXIC ALGAE BLOOM

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Pacific seafood industry, coastal tourism and marine ecosystems could suffer from a vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast.

Researchers say the bloom is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago.

This coastal ribbon of microscopic algae, up to 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep in places, is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. It now stretches from at least California to Alaska and has shut down lucrative fisheries. Shellfish managers have doubled the area off Washington's coast that is closed to Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat.

So-called "red tides" are cyclical and have happened many times before, but ocean researchers say this one is much larger and persisting much longer, with higher levels of neurotoxins.

Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, says the bloom likely will bring a premature end to this year's crab season.

NETFLIX-BABY BENEFIT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Netflix is giving new parents on its payroll up to a year of paid leave in a move that could pressure other technology employers to improve their baby benefits as they vie for talent.

The employee benefit announced Tuesday on Netflix's blog is generous even by the high standards of Silicon Valley, where free meals and other perquisites supplement lavish salaries in the fiercely competitive battle for computer programmers and other technology workers.

Google, which consistently ranks among the best places to work, offers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. Parents can also take seven to 12 weeks of paid "baby bonding" time during their child's first year.

The U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only countries among 185 nations and territories that hadn't imposed government-mandated laws requiring employers to pay mothers while on leave with their babies, according to a study released last year by the United Nations' International Labor Organization.

Netflix's baby-benefit policy covers all of the roughly 2,000 people working at its Internet video and DVD-by-mail services, according to the Los Gatos, California, company.

IMF-CHINA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The staff of the International Monetary Fund is recommending that China wait until at least October 2016 to join an exclusive club of the world's top currencies.

China wants its currency, the yuan, included in a basket of currencies used in IMF operations along with the U.S. dollar, euro, British pound and Japanese yen. It was hoping the yuan could be added this Jan. 1. The IMF board will consider the staff recommendation later this month.

China believes it deserves to be included because it boasts the world's second-biggest economy. But the yuan is not as widely used or freely traded as the other four currencies.

The IMF staff said in a report released Tuesday that it was also worried that adding a new currency Jan. 1 might rattle financial markets on the first day of trading next year.

There have been estimates by some private economists that the Chinese economy will get a major boost if its currency is added.

Since mid-June, the Chinese stock market has been plunging in value despite efforts by the government to end the free-fall.

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