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Mich. workers, lawmakers, business owners speak on minimum wage

Updated: Monday, September 1, 2014
Mich. workers, lawmakers, business owners speak on minimum wage story image

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Starting on this Labor Day, some Michigan workers will be seeing a bump in pay, as the state's minimum wage increase starts to take effect.

This is the first of four pay increases over the next three-and-a-half years.

It's also the first time the minimum wage is going up in Michigan in six years.

But the increase is being met with mixed reviews from consumers, small business owners, and lawmakers.

Monday's raise marks the start of a gradual 25 percent increase in the minimum wage.

"I think that raise is going to go back into our economy and boost everything," said State Rep. Sean McCann.

The increase--passed in May--was a compromise among lawmakers to avoid a ballot initiative while keeping up with inflation.

"Anyone working full time shouldn't be at a poverty level, this is one way to adjust that," McCann said. "It would be to lift someone to the point where they don't need government assistance."

But some small businesses are concerned, saying that the extra cost is added strain on them.

"As minimum wage goes up, so will all of our ingredients, and everybody I purchase from," said Amy Taylor, owner of Bert's Bakery. "In turn, I will have to raise my prices to cover those employees Wages."

But for Karra Lafler, it's just the opposite.

"It gets me by, but it's not enough," she says of her wages.

Lafler is one of the four percent in the state impacted and the extra money means a little extra breathing room.

"More food on the table, being able to support myself and my fianace," she said.

By January 2018, minimum wage will be up to $9.25 per hour. Monday's move increases the wage from $7.40 to $8.15 per hour.

With the increase being so slow and with a smaller number making the minimum wage, economists say this should help some workers, but may not shake the overall economy.

But for workers like Karra, every little bit helps.

"It gives me hope," she said. "There are things I've been wanting to do for years."

A new study finds that 40 percent of Michigan households with at least one worker don't make enough money to meet basic survival needs.

The report was commissioned by the Michigan Association of United Ways.

It focused on people whose earnings are above the poverty line, but still unable to cover expenses like housing, transportation, and health and child care.

The study says the households are 13 percent short of filling the gap between how much money its earners take home and what's needed to cover those expenses.

The next minimum wage increase will come in January 2016. moving up to $8.50 an hour.

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