As Ramona Grigg discussed in her recent guest post “We Need Paid Sick Leave Because Workers Are Humans First“, Democrats in the Michigan legislature have introduced legislation mandating paid sick leave for all Michigan workers. As she wrote, nearly half of Michigan workers are forced to take vacation days or take unpaid leave to stay home if they are ill. That includes the people who make and serve your food in restaurants or who interact with the public in other direct ways.
Democrats recognize this as a serious problem and want to fix it.
This week, Denno Research released a poll conducted for Mothering Justice and the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan that shows overwhelming support of this idea. Their poll of 600 respondents throughout the state in early February shows that an astonishing 86% of Michiganders favor workers earning paid sick days so they can take time off work when they or a family member are ill. An equally astonishing 83% of them support making this the law.
Danielle Atkinson, director of Mothering Justice responded to the poll results with this statement:
The majority of Michiganders support workers’ right to earn paid sick leave. It’s time for our legislators to listen to the voices of their residents and get this type of law on the books. We are long overdue for this commonsense solution for all.
Her thoughts were echoed by Kelly Garrett, mother and Mothering Justice member:
This isn’t just about being able to take a day off when you come down with a cold, it’s about peace of mind. Taking time off to ensure that we’re healthy and our families are healthy should not mean potentially getting shorted a day’s pay or laid off, which is the case for many families and single parents. I’m fortunate that I had the right to earn paid sick leave through my employer. Every worker in Michigan should have access to the same type of policy.
Not surprisingly, Michiganders most likely to be in lower paying jobs were most supportive of the move:
- African Americans – 98%
- Michiganders between the ages of 18 & 34 – 96%
- Women – 92%
According to Engage Michigan, only three states have paid sick leave laws in place (Michigan is not one of them.) Over 1.5 million Michigan workers — about 46 percent of the state’s private sector workforce — are not able to take a paid sick day when they are ill. That’s bad but here’s a statistic that should really give you pause: according to a 2014 study 79 percent of workers in food preparation and service don’t have paid sick leave.
There are few issues that can garner the sort of widespread, across the board support shown in this poll. Even 82% of Republicans polled agreed support legislation ensuring that workers can earn paid time off for when they are sick. President Obama has also used his bully pulpit to support national legislation known as the “Healthy Families Act”.
This isn’t a partisan issue. It is something, however, that corporate America does not want. In fact, the nationwide effort is being vigorously fought by corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who have been at it for several years trying to prevent local governments from passing paid sick leave laws:
What some progressive fans of this movement might not realize is that there is a well-funded wave of opposition that, by the raw numbers, has experienced more success. So-called “pre-emption” state laws that block cities and counties from passing paid sick leave bills have now been enacted in ten states, with seven this year alone, according to analysis from the Economic Policy Institute
As the report notes, this effort is fueled with support, and money, from enormous business interest groups. “In each of the ten states, the bills’ sponsors included members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),” it notes. “And in each case, the bills were adopted following vigorous advocacy by corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Restaurant Association.” For instance, Florida’s billwas pushed forcefully by Disney World, Darden Restaurants (owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. ALEC handed out model pre-emption legislation to conservative legislators at a national meeting in 2011.
More may be on the way. A lawmaker has just introduced such a bill in the Pennsylvania state legislature and have been introduced in at least fourteen other states.
When this legislation comes to a vote in the Michigan legislature, we’ll get to see which side our lawmakers are on, workers and the vast majority of Michiganders or the corporations that profit from workers’ labor.
We’ll be watching.