Opinion | Gutting paid sick leave disrespects voters, undermines democracy

Yousef Rabhi is the House Democratic Floor Leader-Elect and a representative from Ann Arbor.

Update: Snyder signs bills that weaken Michigan minimum wage, sick leave laws
Dec. 21: That's a wrap! What bills passed, died in Michigan lame duck for the ages
Related: See what Michigan lame-duck bills we're tracking

Those wondering why so many citizens trust government so little need only look at the current cynical effort by Republican lawmakers to undermine paid sick leave policies advocated by Michigan’s voters and passed by those same Republican lawmakers in September.

Michigan’s constitution starts with the lines, “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal benefit, security and protection.”

Apparently, the outgoing GOP leadership in the Legislature has decided to amend that to “All political power is inherent in our political action committee contributors.”

The failure of our political leaders to trust voters is undermining democracy in our state, and it is part of the reason Republican politicians are failing in statewide elections. In fact, only the ruthless 2011 Republican gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts leave them with any power after Democrats took nearly every statewide office in the Nov. 6 election. Democrats won a majority of votes statewide, but gerrymandering let Republicans retain control of the House and Senate.

Thanks to Proposal 2, partisan gerrymandering will be illegal next time around – a proposal that received support from 61 percent of state voters, but which was opposed by Republican Party leaders in another case of not trusting “the people.”

It’s time for politicians to trust the people – starting by killing SB 1175, now in the state Senate, which is a tool to undermine the earned paid sick leave policies approved only a few months ago.

This summer, more than 400,000 persons signed petitions supporting an initiated law instituting mandatory paid sick leave in our state. Polls showed it was poised to pass with large majorities of voters if it reached the Nov. 6 ballot. That’s not surprising: Everyone agrees someone who is sick should be able to stay home and get well without the threat of being fired or losing pay. And anyone who says they believe in family should be willing to support the ability of a mother to stay home with a sick child. In fact, we have those policies in place with our staff in the Legislature.

Republicans voted in September to approve this measure. It’s the law of the land, Public Act 338 of 2018. It is good policy. And it’s good politics, as the results of the November election show women flocking to support candidates who are pro-worker and pro-middle class.

But now the GOP leadership is moving to gut the very law they just voted for. It’s one of the dirtiest political moves since Republicans overrode the will of voters who in 2012 ended the state’s autocratic emergency manager law. Turning their backs on voters, GOP lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder reinstated an emergency manager law – and then Snyder appointed czars who poisoned the city of Flint. The voters, as usual, knew best.

The new bill would exempt any company with fewer than 50 workers, and not include any part time workers – even though many people in today’s service industry world are forced to work two or more jobs because employers refuse to give them a regular 40 hour a week job. It also has other exemptions, so that more than half of state workers would not be eligible for sick leave under this callous bill.

A standing attorney general’s opinion says this action is illegal. And the advocates of this law are ready to start collecting signatures again for the 2020 ballot – meaning anybody who votes for this bill will be held accountable in the next election.

Snyder and Republican leaders, it’s time you listened to the voters, not those PAC contributors who want to be able to fire workers who stay home when sick, or require parents to send sick children to school because they can’t stay home with them. You were able to ignore the voters and restore the flawed emergency manager law in 2013 because of gerrymandering. You won’t be able to hide in 2022.

Trust the voters. And help restore trust in our political institutions.

Remember: “All political power is inherent in the people.”  

Stop trying to gut the paid sick leave law.

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Kevin Grand
Tue, 12/04/2018 - 7:02am

I vaguely remember a similar situation back in 2010 when Americans told their elected officials in Washington that we DIDN'T want Obamacare.

Despite this clear direction from the majority of Americans, democrats jammed it through in the dead of night anyway (sound familiar?) and began the systematic destruction of the best health care system on the planet.

And how many people can claim that they kept their plan, kept their doctor and saw $2,500/year in savings?

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:12am

Funny but all the polls say Americans like 'Obamacare' (the Affordable Care Act) and that it was a major driver for the Democratic Party's win to take over the House this past month.
Guess you missed all that...

Kevin Grand
Tue, 12/04/2018 - 12:35pm

Just wait until the bill comes due.

Then we'll see how much people like their "free" healthcare.

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 2:18pm

People dying of easily curable diseases in the richest country on earth is Kafkaesque, and people like you who seem untroubled by it need to be shot into the sun

Kevin Grand
Tue, 12/04/2018 - 7:22pm

And exactly what is preventing YOU from reaching into YOUR own wallet to assuage your conscience?

It's always easier to spend other people's money (and easier yet to have someone else take it, rather than doing the deed yourself).

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 11:33am

Because while I can donate money as an individual, it's not nearly enough to address the fundamental structural disfunction and exploitation inherent in the current system that causes unnecessary suffering. Fuck you, and fuck everyone like you who refuses to have a real debate about fixing the system

Kevin Grand
Wed, 12/05/2018 - 6:01pm

And that's just it, what YOU feel is "enough" to assuage your conscience. As if others don't have priorities different from your own on how they want to be spending the money that they went out and earned on their own.

OABTW: "Fuck you, and fuck everyone like you who refuses to have a real debate about fixing the system"

My compliments to The Bridge for maintaining such high standards regarding what they allow people to post here.

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 1:18pm

Funny seeing as there has been a drop in enrollment to that sham.

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 9:59am

The Trump administration cut advertising by 90%... with the expected results. When you try to wreck something if often happens.

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 7:46am

It's always interesting that when the public passes a ballot proposal the left doesn't like they have no problem getting (a) court(s) to disallow it. When the public passes a ballot they do like (or appears on the verge) and the legislature (also elected by the public) passes or changes it in way they don't like it's disrespectful.

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:32am

Except that this is a blatant, cynical subversion of the democratic process. But hey, what do you care?

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 12:56pm

And when some judge pulls something out of the air and dis allows the voter's passed measure, it is just fine (assuming you agree with the judge)? We get it now.

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:18am

As a salaried employee of a large automaker, I had 5 paid sick leave days per year. Many years I took none. When I did use them, I only used 2 or 3. The sick days did not carry forward and accumulate. Vacation days were similar in that they did not carry forward and accumulate. When we retired, no accumulated days went into our pension payment calculation. On the flip side, not many abused the system. The days were there for us to use, but were not really ours to claim if we were not sick. There is so much abuse of the system today, especially in public sector jobs where unused vacation, sick pay, and even overtime figures into the pension calculation. It is no wonder that the pension systems are a mess and will be the downfall of this country as state after state and local unit after local unit is forced into bankruptcy.

David Waymire
Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:53am

State workers no longer receive pensions. Outside of police and fire departments, which have been given special privileges by Republicans, most local government workers don't either. But you are right about one thing...study after study after study shows workers don't abuse sick leave policies.

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:44am

But the "OLD" senators and house members still get there benefits! wonder what the 3 top state employees Benefits packages is. since there salary are $ 330 000 and the "fired" employe only got $ 157 000 pay for the same "JOB"!like to see this

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:48am

Workers employed more hours and more weeks all years,
While Michigan Legislature "works" 6 months or less! need to see there work hour /schedule!
pay plus benefits, and pay Taxes?

Jim tomlimson
Tue, 12/04/2018 - 11:40pm


Tue, 12/04/2018 - 11:10am

Rep. Rabhi supported Rep. Tom Leonard, one of the Republican leaders he complains about, by voting for him to be House Speaker. Did he hold out his vote for say, no lame duck bills without bipartisan sponsors? How about proportional membership in standing committees? Roll call votes for immediate effect when a bill passes by less than 2/3?
Feckless is what I'm thinking. The Ds have been behaving like abused spouses.

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 5:03pm

Sadly, none of these so called “studies” were done with small businesses. When there are only 8 to 10 employees, it becomes difficult to cover someone’s job when everyone has a job to do. Who was actually asked about the abuse ? The employees?
Having previously owned a small business, better than 50% of the employees in the industry I was in, called in sick after playing darts the night before, or bowling etc. This is not abuse?
Previous to owning my own business, I was a district manager for a major corporation and found the same to be true with these employees.