News from the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan

June 2, 2015

Contact: Marissa Luna, 989-798-3051,

Worker Advocates Rally Outside Michigan Restaurant Association

Call for local control and workplace protections                               

LANSING — Today, worker advocates, elected officials and concerned citizens held a press conference outside of the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA) offices calling for living wages and workplace protections for restaurant employees. The press conference is in response to the Michigan Restaurant Association’s annual lobby day, which has consistently fought against legislation that would help workers and families.

“Every year, the Michigan Restaurant Association employs armies of lobbyists who work to influence decisions made by our elected leaders. This year, they’re lobbying to hijack our democracy and take away local communities’ ability to pass laws that help workers,” said Stephanie Moore, Kalamazoo County Commissioner. “Local governments and elected officials must have the freedom to do what’s best for their residents and communities.”

The MRA is a supporter of policies that would take away local communities’ ability to pass laws like earned sick leave, Community Benefits Agreements, and other policies that strengthen communities and help workers.

“If the MRA is successful in their lobbying efforts, then local governments will not be able to guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick leave,” said Andrea Velasquez with ROC Michigan. “Nearly two-thirds of cooks and servers reported cooking or serving food while sick because they don’t have access to earned sick leave. That’s no way to treat your employees and it puts us all at risk of getting sick, and the MRA wants to keep it that way.”

In 2014, the National Restaurant Association spent over $2 million lobbying to prevent workers from making a living wage and having access to earned sick leave.

“Michigan workers deserve wages that will support a family. Several years ago our City Commission created a Wage Theft Ordinance for the City of Grand Rapids that prevents contractors from bidding on city contracts if they have been involved in stealing wages from their employees,” said Phil Boogaart with the Micah Center. “Rather than spending obscene amounts of money on lobbyists whose only interest is to increase their bottom line at the expense of Michigan families, the MRA could be making sure that workers aren’t stuck living in poverty because their employer refuses to pay them a living wage.”

Several communities have been considering adopting Community Benefits Agreements that would protect residents and hold mega-developers accountable for big projects when large corporations get massive amounts of public money, land, and resources.

“In Flint we’ve discussed the need for having Community Benefits Agreements as a way for residents to leverage our public dollars for public good instead of just for corporations and developers to make more profits,” said Nayyirah Shariff, Flint resident and community benefit agreement activist. “This type of legislation that the MRA is lobbying for would handicap our community’s ability to control our own destiny and hold big corporations accountable.”

Some communities have adopted “Ban the Box” ordinances, which protect ex offenders from being discriminated against by requiring the removal of the box on job applications that asks if you have ever been convicted of a felony. Legislation being pushed by the MRA would prevent other communities from adopting this ordinance.

“We all make mistakes, some worse than others, but we all still need a job to make a living and take care of ourselves,” said Monica Jahner, outreach coordinator with ARRO. “Job applicants should be given fair consideration based on work experience and education rather than just on their previous convictions, but too often ex offenders are discriminated against and have their applications thrown into the trash with out proper consideration. This lobby day is not about helping people; it’s about lobbyists pushing a corporate agenda and we won’t stand for it.”