Letter: Let workers earn paid sick time

Eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects nearly 1.5 million Americans. The diagnosis came with the initial shock that I had a chronic illness and all the questions about how it would shape my life, what treatment would look like and whether or not there was a cure. I knew my life would never be the same.

Proper treatment for lupus included getting blood drawn every two weeks, chemotherapy, infusions and many follow up appointments with my doctor. The treatment left me exhausted and stretched for time, and adding to my stress was the fact that my employer did not offer enough paid time off to ensure I could get the care I needed.

When I missed work, I had to use days that would normally be used for vacation and I quickly exhausted them. This led me to receive write-ups that put me on the brink of losing my job. The bills for my treatment kept coming, so I had no choice but to go to work and miss blood draws and treatments, putting my health at risk. Ultimately, my illness made the choice for me and I had to leave the job I had invested years and time and energy in after I passed out at work and was taken out on a stretcher. My experience has led me to support the enactment of an earned paid sick time law in Michigan.

Earlier this year, I spoke in support of legislation introduced in both the state House and Senate that would guarantee every worker the ability to earn paid sick time. Months later, those bills sit in committee without a hearing or a vote. Meanwhile, nearly two million Michigan workers — nearly half of the private sector workforce — lack the ability to take time off to care for their loved ones or get well after an illness or injury. Our elected officials in Lansing have failed us on this vital issue.

Despite the lack of action in Lansing, people are taking democracy in our own hands by putting earned paid sick time on the ballot. This ballot measure will go a long way towards ensuring that those of us with chronic illness to get the care we need when we need it.

Seven states plus the District of Columbia already give workers the ability to earn paid sick time. Three states, Arizona, Washington and Massachusetts have enacted their laws through the use of ballot initiatives. Michigan is known for leading the way on worker rights and this ballot measure will allow us to follow the example of states that have already enacted earned paid sick time laws while being the first state in the Midwest to do so.

Christina Hayes

lupus survivor, Inkster