Opinion | Gutting paid sick time initiative a slap in the face to workers

Lois Robertson-Douglass is a professor emeritus at Oakland Community College

As a person who is proud to call the beautiful state of Michigan my home, I was deeply upset  last year when our elected state representatives decided to callously ignore the collective voice of working people as they took away Michiganders’ opportunity to vote on the earned paid sick leave ballot initiative in November.

For most of my working life, I worked as a civil servant in Michigan and had jobs that gave me paid sick leave. I was fortunate to have been provided this benefit, and I firmly believe that all working men and women in this state deserve the same respect and time to care for themselves and their families, without being penalized.

The paid sick leave initiative, which was adopted and then gutted by the Republican-led state legislature during the lame duck session, expressed the will of thousands of workers across the state who worked hard to secure the required number of signatures. However, what lawmakers passed is not what Michigander’s signed on to. What they passed once again leaves Michigan’s working families holding the short end of the stick.

The sad irony is that those same elected officials, who decided that Michigan voters don’t deserve this benefit, are salaried and get paid in full whether or not they show up to work. Their underhanded behavior clearly exposes their utter disregard for our democracy and makes the passing of such a watered-down paid sick bill all the more shameful and dangerous.

What is even more puzzling is that this move comes at a time when studies consistently show that the health of Americans across the country is in jeopardy. Life expectancy is decreasing, and infant mortality is increasing. We should be investing in the health of working families, not snatching away benefits that keep people safe and strong.

A recent Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) survey of 22 of the wealthiest nations in the world, shows that the U.S. is the only country that does not provide workers, “some form” of paid sick leave. When a country’s leaders do not take care of the health and well-being of its working people, it reveals a fundamentally flawed national character. It highlights that those leaders see working people as disposable, and that is unacceptable.

The legality of lawmakers’ lame duck actions is currently under consideration by the Michigan Supreme Court, with oral arguments scheduled for July 17. Recently, multiple parties, including the attorney general and governor, filed legal briefs in the case before the Supreme Court arguing what took place during lame duck last year was unconstitutional.

If they agree that everyone deserves a fair and equal shot at leading a good life, the Supreme Court must strike down the shameful and undemocratic actions of the legislature that took away the well-deserved right to earned paid sick time for Michigan’s workers.

Investing in our nation is about much more than ensuring that corporate interests are protected while working families are left by the wayside. It must be about growing the economy for all of us and that starts by putting working people first for a change. 

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

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Wed, 06/26/2019 - 9:20am

Will you please provide a link or simply tell the readers:
"...what took place during lame duck last year was unconstitutional." ? Thank you.

Nick Ciaramitaro
Wed, 06/26/2019 - 11:31am

The legislature and governor arrogantly circumvented the "reserved powers" of the people outlined in the State Constitution to the right of initiative by adopting two proposed initiatives to prevent them from being voted on (as allowed by the Constitution) with the clear and stated intent of never allowing those provisions to go into law and then gutted those same laws immediately after the election in the lame duck session. This "adopt and amend" process makes a joke of the State Constitutional right of initiative (see 1963 Const. Art. II sec. 9 ), violating both the letter and the spirit of the provision. The then Attorney General quickly revoked an earlier Attorney General Opinion prohibiting such action to give the Legislature's pretense of power an illusion of authenticity. The process is currently before the Supreme Court on a request for an advisory opinion on its efficacy by the Legislature.

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 2:24pm

This isn't the first time this tactic was used, why is this claim only appearing now? I read your citation, where does it define the "reserved powers" of the people? Besides if our constitution is a "living document" who knows what it has grown to mean at this moment?

middle of the mit
Tue, 07/02/2019 - 1:29am

["Besides if our constitution is a "living document" who knows what it has grown to mean at this moment?"]

Would that mean muzzle loaders are equal to AR-15's?

Original intent and all. If you believe that the founders could have conceived of AR-15's in order to have said original intent.

Careful how you parse words.

Ask how the founders dealt with the whiskey rebellion and Shays rebellion.

They squashed them! No doubt!

Jim tomlinson
Wed, 06/26/2019 - 10:00am

So republican

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 12:31pm

Just trying to understand the logic these types of ballot propositions and those supporting them here, if the voters approved a ballot proposition requiring parents to provide each of their children a new car on their 16th birthday, would you have any argument against the legitimacy of this?

David Vaughan
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 10:16am

Not a fan of paid sick days. Why legislate another regulation, allow for abuse, raise prices and cause others in the private sector self employed to suffer the cost for those that can't manage their own economy? Get govt out of the nanny mentality. DHV

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 11:52am

So when waiter gets flu, she will still serve your food.

J. Katakowski
Sat, 06/29/2019 - 6:44am

The article starts out with "our elected state representatives...." I wish it would have said the republican GOP elected state rep.......... as to my best knowledge the democrats would never do that. Bridge needs to put a " like" on the comment section so people could choose to like or dislike some of the responses. Thanks for the forum.