FLINT, MI — A statewide coalition launched a push Monday, March 2, to advocate for all Michigan workers to have earned, paid sick leave.
“(We’re) really pushing our state policy makers to take action to guarantee earned sick leave for all workers in Michigan,” said Dave Woodward, with the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan. “This is an issue that’s really important to all workers. More than a million people across this state do not have access to earned sick leave to take care of themselves when they’re sick, to take care of a child or an elderly parent, and that’s just wrong.
“We need to do right by our workers, right by our community and, frankly, it’s long overdue.”
Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan held a press conference in Flint City Hall Monday afternoon to announce the coalition, which is made up of community leaders, elected officials and earned sick leave advocates.
A similar press conference was also held in Grand Rapids at the Garfield Park Neighborhood Lodge to urge the Michigan Legislature to pass a law giving workers the right to earn paid sick days.
“We all have either experienced a workday where we were too sick to be working, needed to go to the doctor or take care of a sick loved one, or know someone who has,” said Danielle Atkinson, director of Mothering Justice, in a written statement. “Unfortunately, many people cannot afford to have their employers short them a day’s worth of pay to take a day of work off when situations like those arise.”
The coalition is comprised of groups from around the state, including Mothering Justice, the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network and Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), Building Movement Project Detroit People’s Platform, ROC Michigan and Our Kitchen Table.
The Earned Sick Leave Coalition announced the launch of the new campaign a few weeks after House and Senate Democrats on Thursday, Feb. 5, announced legislation to mandate paid sick leave, a change they say would affect 1 million Michigan workers.
“No one should have to make the difficult decision of choosing between their personal or family health or a paycheck,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, in February. Ananich introduced the legislation in the Senate.
The legislation would require employers to offer one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours a person works. For somebody working 40 hours a week, that would equate to 69.3 hours or 8.7 standard eight-hour work days of sick leave per year. It would apply to both part-time and full-time employees.
There could be a roadblock to the Democratic plan. The legislation runs counter to the majority House Republican Action Plan also unveiled on Feb. 5. In that, House Republicans cited local sick day ordinances as a hindrance to job creation.
State Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township, said legislation such as the bill introduced by Senate and House Democrats would not be good for businesses.
“I’m not inclined to support it because this is another cost we are imposing on an employer,” Robertson said. “I just don’t see how employers can shoulder that cost without putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”
With Obamacare and other new requirements, it’s already hard for employers to try and keep their employers working full-time, Robertson said.
The focus should be more on the question of why it’s so costly to hire someone full-time, he said.
“I think (the legislation) really adds to that problem. It’s going to make it harder for people to employ people full-time,” Robertson said.
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, who was at the press conference in Flint on Monday, said he was in support of the push for earned paid sick leave.
With Flint’s master plan calling for improvements in economic development and education, the city is striving for a diverse and growing economy that spurs small business and innovation, Walling said. That includes offering workers an opportunity to make a livable wage and to earn paid sick time.
“The foundation of a strong economy is strong families and strong workers, and we’re at a point right now where too many of our workers when they’re sick are receiving a termination notice instead of receiving paid time off and that ends up hurting all of us,” Walling said. “I don’t see this as a new burden on business. I see this as a way that we can help our families and support our entire economy.”