Group starts ballot drive to require paid sick leave

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — A Detroit-based coalition said Monday it is starting a ballot petition drive asking voters to require paid sick leave for all Michigan workers and override a state ban on local governments setting their own benefit policies.

The union-supported Time to Care Coalition said it hopes to collect enough signatures for a 2016 ballot proposal requiring employers to provide paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked.

Danielle Atkinson, director of the liberal organization Mothering Justice, said it’s a response to Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers passing a new law last month that prohibits local governments from adopting measures to protect workers in their communities.

“We are here today and have decided to take the issue directly to the voters,” Atkinson said. “Most people cannot afford to take a day off or take some time off to go to the doctor.”

She said two-thirds of food service workers report they have worked while they were sick because they had no paid leave time and couldn’t afford to take a day off. The issue, she said, is about fairness and public safety.

Lawmakers last month passed the Local Government Labor Regulatory Limitation Act prohibiting any local government from requiring employers to pay more than the minimum wage, provide paid or unpaid leave time or other benefits, or regulate employment in way that exceeds state or federal requirements.

Snyder signed it after getting lawmakers to modify their original version of the bill, so municipalities that already have such rules can continue to enforce them. The new law bans any new local government regulations on businesses.

Supporters of the Regulatory Limitation Act say Michigan will be less attractive to prospective new businesses if they face a hodgepodge of local rules rather than statewide polices applied to all employers.

Opponents of the law say Michigan will be a more appealing state in which to set up shop and work if it’s fairer to its workers.

Liberal groups and unions have dubbed it the Death Star law.