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Petition Drive Launched to Derail Local "Living Wage" Ordinance

4/11/2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Diane Barnes
(810) 774-1625
(810) 202-5817

EASTPOINTE. "We will overturn this attack on Eastpointe taxpayers, businesses and working people," said resident and community activist Diane Barnes in announcing an effort to force the city council to get voter approval for its new "Living Wage" ordinance.

Ordinance #901 was adopted unanimously by the Eastpointe city council on April 3 -- before an audience intentionally packed with union members, according to Barnes. "This is a transparent attempt to artificially inflate the wage scale for unions," she observed, "at the expense of young people and the working poor who will be forced into the unemployment lines simply because their skills cannot command the $11-per-hour mandated. The unions are basically trying to give themselves a raise by legally eliminating the competition."

"It will devastate local businesses," added Doug Pohl owner of the Grand Riviera Restaurant and a member of the Eastpointe Chamber of Commerce, noting the already increasing number of boarded up buildings and vacant retail space in the city. "And," he added, "it will raise the cost of city services to taxpayers when contractors have to raise their rates to cover the higher labor costs. And all of this," he concluded, "with absolutely no reason to believe the people who benefit will even be residents of our city!"

The new requirement that employers provide a "Living Wage" to all employees would apply to all city contractors as well as to any business receiving "financial assistance" in the form of "revenue bond financing, tax increment financing, tax abatement, tax credit, direct grant, or any other form of financial assistance that exceeds $ 5000.00 in any 12 month period."

Barnes and her committee have 30 days from the date the ordinance was enacted to collect 286 signatures of registered Eastpointe voters. She is shooting to collect 450 signatures to make up for any that prove not to have come from qualified, Eastpointe electors. But having the support of the Eastpointe Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Chamber and the Detroit Regional Chamber, she anticipates no problem reaching her goal.

If the petition drive is successful, the new ordinance will be put on hold until it can be put to a vote at the next regular election.

However, it is also possible that the entire question will be made moot in the meantime. House Bill 4328, currently in committee in the state legislature, would retroactively prohibit Michigan cities from imposing a "Living Wage" higher than the federal minimum wage.

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