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Push for Paid Sick Leave Gains Traction

PHOTO: Whether dealing with a sick child, other family member or a personal illness, Michiganders would be able to take paid time off under legislation that has been introduced in the state House and Senate. Photo credit: elinluna/morguefile.
PHOTO: Whether dealing with a sick child, other family member or a personal illness, Michiganders would be able to take paid time off under legislation that has been introduced in the state House and Senate. Photo credit: elinluna/morguefile.
April 3, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - For millions of Michiganders, taking a day off work because of their own or a family member's illness simply is not an option, but a broad coalition says changing that would make for a safer, healthier, more prosperous state.

Legislation introduced in the state House would make paid sick days mandatory in Michigan. Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, who co-sponsored House Bill 4167, said she believes not only is this a public health and safety concern for all workers, but it's the right thing to do as a state.

"We want people to stay at home, to be able to take care of themselves before going back to work," she said, "and also to be able to take care of their loved one if they're sick."

The bill would provide full-time workers eight-and-a-half paid sick days per year, and is backed by a broad group of organizations and community leaders including the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan and the Michigan National Organization for Women.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate, but Republican leaders claim paid sick leave would be a hindrance to job creation. Chang, however, argued that the measure is not a burden to businesses, but rather part of the foundation for a strong economy.

"You want to have productive workers." she said, "When someone's going to work sick, they're not working at their full capacity, especially if they're getting other people sick or if they're getting sicker."

Chang said not having paid sick time is a particular burden for Michigan women, who are more likely to be in low-wage jobs with minimal benefits.

"Looking at the restaurant industry and other service industries, women make up the majority of those types of workers," she said, "and so it's an issue that affects many people, but it definitely disproportionately impacts women."

According to a recent survey, 86 percent of Michigan voters say they think employees should get paid sick leave.

Text of HB 4167 is online at legislature.mi.gov.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI