Labor — September 16, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Time to Care Coalition launches ballot initiative to require paid sick time for Michigan workers


Last February, Denno Research released a poll conducted for Mothering Justice and the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan that shows overwhelming support for requiring Michigan employers to provide time off for workers who are sick or who need to care for sick families members. Their poll of 600 respondents throughout the state showed that an astonishing 86% of Michiganders favor workers earning paid sick days. An equally astonishing 83% of them support making this the law.

The Time to Care Coalition, which includes the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, MOSES, Restaurant Opportunity Center United (ROC), Mothering Justice, Detroit People’s Platform and the Michigan League for Public Policy, is now working to make that happen. This morning they held a press conference in front of the state Capitol building announcing that they have launched a ballot initiative to put the question before voters in 2016. “Having the ability to earn paid sick time would ensure that working people are able to balance work and time caring for their families and themselves, which are critical to building strong, thriving communities. That’s why I’m so excited to join this effort,” said Roland Leggett, field director for the Time to Care Coalition. “We’re hitting the ground running and are confident that we will get this initiative on the ballot.”

According the Time to Care Coalition, the Earned Sick Time Act is a bill to provide workers with the right to earn sick time for personal or family health needs, as well as purposes related to domestic violence and sexual assault and school meetings needed as the result of a child’s disability, health, or issues due to domestic violence and sexual assault; to specify the conditions for accruing and using earned sick time; to prohibit retaliation against an employee for requesting, exercising, or enforcing rights granted in this act; to prescribe powers and duties of certain state departments, agencies, and officers; to provide for promulgation of rules; and to provide remedies and sanctions.

The proposal would allow people to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Workers could earn up to nine days of paid sick time, depending on the size of the business.

This particular effort is a citizen-initiated legislative petition. If they collect the required 252,523 valid signatures, it goes to the state legislature to be made into law. It would then become law 90 days after lawmakers adjourn for the year. According to Michigan law, if the legislature fails to do this within 40 days of the validation of the correct number of signatures by the state Board of Canvassers, it goes on the ballot for the voters to approve. Under this process, the law is NOT subject to approval or veto by Gov. Snyder.

At the press conference, Staci Lowry, a Mothering Justice activist and single mother, told her powerful story:

When I was employed at my last job my 4-year old daughter had a stroke. The company I was with provided no avenue for support other than unpaid time off and when that time ran out, I was laid off. No parent should have to go through the emotional turmoil of seeing their child seriously ill and on top of that have to make a choice about whether they will be by their child’s side or keep their job.

Rev. Lindsey Anderson of Detroit Cooperative Parish gave an additional perspective:

This is an issue that directly affects my parishioners and I know I’m not the only clergy member, family member, neighbor, who has received a call from one of our folks looking for childcare or asking for help in taking care of a sick loved one. There is a very clear justice imperative that I read in the scriptures for caring for vulnerable people and providing fair payment to someone in exchange for their work, I believe this includes the benefits needed to live healthy lives.

This is an issue that impacts a broad cross-section of Michiganders. More than 1.5 million working people in Michigan, about 46 percent of the state’s private sector workforce, are not able to take a paid sick day when they or a family member are ill. It’s good policy that has a direct impact on public health because, according to a 2014 study, 79 percent of workers in food preparation and service don’t have paid sick leave. On top of that, it’s one that should help bring even more progressive folks out to the polls. But it’s not just an issue that progressives can get behind as the polling earlier this year shows.

Keep your eyes open for petitioners as they gather signatures for this important ballot measure and visit the Time to Care Coalition’s website to learn how you can get involved. It’s good for workers and it’s good for Michigan.

[Photo courtesy of Time To Care Coalition.]