Opinion: Lame duck opportunity to fix paid sick time

Rob Fowler, Charlie Owens, Chuck Hadden, and Rich Studley

It only makes sense for Michigan employee benefit policies be left to the employer and employee to negotiate instead of being dictated by outside special interests.

As a small business coalition, we fully supported the legislature adopting the paid medical leave ballot proposal in September and we praise the recent Senate action that makes the law work for Michigan families and businesses, alike.

The paid sick leave policy may sound good on the surface, but the devil is in the details, and what the details tell us is that the current law would cost Michigan’s economy billions of dollars, could put the brakes on new business expansion and development, and put Michigan families at risk of losing other employer benefits they and their families rely on.

After a similar law was enacted in the City of Seattle, a study of businesses found that 15.7% raised prices, 16.3% reduced hours and cut staff, and 17.3% cut or eliminated benefits. F

or the State of Connecticut, a similar survey of businesses found 36% cut benefits, 13% cut hours, 7% reduced wages and 19% said they would limit or curtail expansion in state. I

Overall, the study found that 69% of the business owners said it was bad legislation for business.

The reality is the current law puts Michigan’s families and businesses at risk. Thirty- nine other states do not impose this additional mandate, making Michigan companies less competitive against nearly 80% of the rest of the country.

If it goes into effect, it will ignore the labor agreements unions and employers already have in place. It fails to recognize businesses that already provide the benefit. It negatively affects small business, non-profits, and religious organizations that cannot afford to absorb the increased costs. It raises costs for local governments and that will mean tax increases across the board for the rest of us.

The same consequences that have happened in Seattle and Connecticut will happen in Michigan had the legislature not adopted the proposal giving them the opportunity to fix it before Michigan experiences its negative impact. Michigan is the comeback state; record unemployment, over half a million private sector jobs created, and we rank 12th in overall business climate.

This is not the time to fall back into the ways of the past but continue to grow Michigan’s economy and support Michigan’s families. That is why we, as a small business coalition, support the legislature fixing the paid medical leave bill - to protect Michigan’s families and job providers. We stand with the Senate in their effort to make this law work for Michigan families and businesses and encourage the House to take swift action, as well.

Rob Fowler is President and CEO of Small Business Association of Michigan.

Charlie Owens is Michigan State Director of National Federation of Independent Business.

Chuck Hadden is President and CEO of Michigan Manufacturers Association.

Rich Studley is CEO of Michigan Chamber of Commerce.