Backers of the statewide petition drive are gathering names to hike the state's minimum wage and the state business community is gathering steam to kill it.
There was a closed door, unannounced meeting this week of four business lobby groups eager to stop the minimum wage. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, small and independent businesses, and the restaurant association were all in the first huddle. More to follow.
"Can we assume you will not take this lying down?" the question was put to Rob Fowler who runs the Small Business Association of Michigan.
"We will not," he shoots back while revealing that a number of strategies are on the table.
Business could take all of this to court; it could "educate" the public not to sign the petitions or vote no if it gets to the ballot, or it could ask lawmakers to adopt a different proposal aimed at heading-off the petition drive at the pass.
"We are looking at all our options," he concedes but it's too early to determine which route the coalition will go.
"This is a big hardship on my members," laments Charlie Owens who attended the session on behalf of his independent business members. He sees no benefit to the economy even though the other side says it will put more spendable income into consumer's pockets.
"It's more money in the hands of some consumers," Owens begins what is to become a constant pitch, "and it comes out of the pockets of other consumers in the form of increased prices or the lost wages for those who lose their job…It's a deterrent to the economy."
Mr. Fowler says he's been fighting this for thirty years and he's likely to pick up the assistance of a group you think would stay out of this namely the Detroit Three automakers and other heavy industry types.
Their lobbyist Mike Johnson from the Michigan Manufacturers Association fears a trickle-up effect. "As the minimum wage increases, our members feel the pressure to increase their wages. And that becomes a problem in terms of our competition globally."
On the option to drag lawmakers into the debate, which happened in 2006 when legislators avoided another petition drive by adopting its own wage hike, GOP Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) reveals he will pursue that.
"I'll asked Senator Richardville (the senate GOP leader) to look at this" as Mr. Nofs is undecided on how to vote.
"I can understand where it is hard to live on that minimum wage…but on the other side I can understand business. If you pay more for workers, you have less money to invest in your business…"
While he's perched on the fence, business is not as it gears up for an all out battle to kill this thing before it multiplies.