Rep. Sarah Roberts’ Op Ed in the Detroit News                                                                

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We’ve all been there. Waking up to the sound of a sick child or being sick ourselves. The illness is bad enough, but for those without paid sick days, the struggle is far from just dealing with an illness. Too many working families are unable to take time off work without risking being fired or falling behind on bills because of lost income.

For too long, the policies that have been passed in Lansing have ignored the issues that face workers. In the past five years, we have seen bills that benefit those at the top while asking for more and more of working people. As our economy continues on a path to recovery, I believe that it is time to pass bills that give working families – the same working families that have kept going to lift Michigan out of the most recent downturn – the tools they need to thrive instead of just survive.

In an effort to give working families the tools to get by, advocates across the state are working to pass legislation at the state and local level to allow workers to earn paid sick days. As a legislator, I support House Bill 4167, a bipartisan bill which would give workers the tools, they need to take care of themselves and their families without risking their economic well being. I also applaud the efforts of those working to pass similar ordinances in counties, cities and townships across our state.

However, as thousands of Michiganians continue to work harder and harder to make ends meet, Republicans in the House recently passed legislation that would prevent local governments across Michigan from passing ordinances that would benefit working families in their communities. Ordinances guaranteeing the ability to earn paid sick days would be among them.

Not only does guaranteeing workers the ability to earn paid sick days protect the health and well-being of employers and their families, it results in reduced job turnover and increased productivity – which is good for all of us.

According to a 2011 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than 1 million Michigan workers – about 46 percent of private sector workers – cannot take sick leave when they are ill. This leads to numerous problems, including children showing up at school when they are sick, more people getting sick from working near sick co-workers and decreased productivity.

Lack of access to paid sick leave not only affects families, it’s something nearly all of us will need to rely on at some point in our lives. Whether you’re a new parent or caregiver, suffer from a chronic medial condition or are recovering from an accident or crime, Michigan workers deserve to take time off without fear of loosing pay or getting fired.

Paid sick days legislation would reward hard work by allowing each worker to earn paid time off so that they can care for themselves or their loved ones. This legislation is truly the hand up that working families need and not a hand out as opponent will claim.

These same opponents of earned sick leave also claim that such a guarantee is an overreach and but those same lawmakers support legislation that would greatly usurp local government and render them unable to pass ordinances as they see fit. They can’t have it both ways.

Michiganians shouldn’t have to choose between getting fired and taking care of themselves or their loved ones. Every other industrialized county in the world has found a way to help it’s citizen’s balance life’s uncertainties, it’s time Michigan and the United States follow suit.

State Rep. Sarah Roberts, D – St. Clair Shores, represents the 18th District.