Shoveling snow off Detroit sidewalks for pay? Get a license

“Detroit licenses about 60 occupations, imposing extra fees and requirements on top of existing Michigan licenses for about half of these occupations. The other half of the occupations that Detroit licenses are not licensed by the state at all.” Window washers (who must pay $72 per year), sidewalk shovelers, dry cleaners, and furniture movers are all licensed. Because Detroit piles such hefty fees and additional regulations on plumbers beyond those of Michigan, “there are only 58 licensed plumbers in the whole city.” The system squeezes workers for cash, excludes newcomers, and harms consumers. But it’s not inevitable: “Last year, Wisconsin passed a bill that stopped local governments from creating new occupational licenses or levying additional fees.” [Jared Meyer on Jarrett Skorup Mackinac Center study]


  • It may be different in other parts of the country, but here where I live a business license is based on where the work is being performed. That means a person with a county license still has to get a separate license from one of the incorporated cities if they wish to perform work in that city. (There is one 14 mile stretch of road here with 4 towns and county areas all of which require a separate license to work in that area.)

    If Detroit has the same set up for licensing of plumbers (the given example) the number of plumbers in the city would not be affected because even a plumber outside the city would still have to pay for a license to perform work within the city.

    I wonder if the lack of plumbers has to do more with other factors and regulations on things such a parking and signage.

    For example, there is a town near me that does not allow the parking of commercial vehicles on the street or in front of the house set back line overnight. Some / many homes were built with 5 foot side set backs which effectively means a plumber or handyman can’t get his van along the side of his home and behind the setback line.

    One city took a different route and banned “advertising” on residential streets and on private property. The Planning Board then decreed (and backed up by the City Council) that trucks with a company name on them were effectively “advertising,” leaving people without the ability to park their work vehicles on the street or on their own property at night.

    Another town banned business signs over 24 square feet times 2 (front and back of the sign.) A company that would park their trucks in their parking lot overnight was cited for violating the sign regulation.

    Detroit has somewhat of a crime problem, it could be that the number of plumbers is related to plumbers not wanting to deal with the break in and theft of vehicles and shops.

    I think the licensing fees are horrible and unjust in many ways, but I am not sure that the conclusion can be drawn that Detroit doesn’t have plumbers within the city strictly based on license requirements.

    Finally, Florida has a bill that was introduced in the legislature this year limiting the amount of money a county or municipality can charge or a license. The League of Cities and most local governments have come out against the proposal claiming “home rule” and that the law is an “unfunded mandate.” (The “unfunded mandate” claim shows a lack of understanding as t what a unfunded mandate is, but that’s another story.)

    Most of the cities have said that if the bill passes, they will have to cut services. To me, this proves that the licensing scam is not about safety or the qualifications of the person doing the work, but rather a money grab for the local government.

  • Only occupations that involve public safety should be licensed, such as:

    Natural gas technicians,
    Electricians connecting high-voltage power,
    Dentists, and

    Licensing other occupations and businesses is a money grab for local “legal” mafias.