Opinion | A healthy economy needs a healthy workforce. Here's our plan.

State Sen. Stephanie Chang represents Detroit, Sen. Jeremy Moss represents Southfield and Sen. Sylvia Santana represents Detroit.

This week is Occupational Safety and Health Week, and as plans for reopening the economy are developed, there is no better time than now to implement the strongest possible long-term workplace and workers' rights protections.

We have heard from thousands of workers across the state, many of whom are afraid to go to work and who do not feel their workplaces are ready for safe operation. We have heard from workers not being given masks. We know that no-touch thermometers for screening are scarce. We have heard from security and cleaning professionals who are bringing in doctor's notes to their supervisors as proof that they need to stay home, but who are being denied the option to do so. We have heard about unclean work sites where employees don’t have access to running water or hand sanitizer. We have heard that some employers are not notifying their employees when one of them has tested positive for COVID-19. More than 1,000 workplace safety complaints have been filed to the state since the pandemic began, and we know that these are just the tip of the iceberg.

We have a plan.

Every worker needs workplace protections to ensure they can do their jobs safely and without unnecessarily risking their lives or the health of their loved ones. We each represent communities that have been some of the hardest hit areas of the state by COVID-19. Our plan aims to ensure vulnerable workers are protected when they re-engage at their workplaces and takes into consideration their individual conditions — such as underlying chronic health issues or lack of access to safe transit — as we move forward from this public health crisis together.

We must require employers to provide a list of local COVID-19 testing sites to employees. We also need to issue guidelines to them clarifying the types of personal protection equipment (PPE) and disinfecting products proven to mitigate the spread of coronavirus most effectively.

Michigan should create a Statewide COVID-19 Safety Standard for businesses and increase funding for the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which needs to be able to hire and train staff who can adequately respond to COVID-19 workplace complaints.

Workers need guarantees in place that assure them they will be protected from retaliation if they complain about unsafe workplace conditions, or if they decide they cannot go to work due to chronic conditions or other barriers. Additionally, frontline workers deserve hazard pay for putting their health and livelihoods on the line.

We should expand paid sick leave coverage to all workers, regardless of company size and employment status, so that workers can accrue at least 72 hours of paid sick leave per year. We also need to ensure that working parents have access to the safe, accessible, and affordable childcare options they need — now more than ever.

We should expand grants for small businesses to secure PPE and conduct workplace safety training sessions with their employees.

As the Democratic senators who took part in a workplace safety workgroup — that listened to business leaders, health professionals, workers' rights organizations, labor unions, and more than 5,000 Michiganders who completed an online survey — we recently developed a set of recommendations based on this input and will soon introduce legislation to create long-term solutions for workers that protects them in the workplace.

Many of our residents live paycheck-to-paycheck, and we understand the need for them to get back to work so that they can provide for their themselves or their families — but no one should have to choose between going to work or staying safe.

We are committed to fighting hard to keep Michigan workers safe and to protecting the public’s health, because we cannot have a healthy economy if we don’t have a healthy workforce.

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Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/08/2020 - 5:01pm

I don't know who these three are trying to kid, but using the slogan of "never letting a good crisis go to waste", obviously has not been lost on them.

Much like the classic definition of chutzpa where a child kills their parents and then throws themselves at the mercy of the court due to the fact that they are now an orphan, these three state senators are hoping that you won't make the connection between the governor's executive orders making over 25% of Michigan's workforce unemployed (and rising) through her own direct actions. As recently as March, that rate was 4.1%

These three don't give a damn about Michigan Workers!

They would rather make it harder and harder for businesses to hire people, thereby making more Michiganians dependent on the government.

Sen. Wyden of Oregon freely admitted the democrat's overall plan last month, that the goal of the democrat party to cause as much damage as they can to the economy in order to push through their agenda.

“Supercharging unemployment benefits has long been a priority for Senate Democrats. Our proposal was not a drafting error.”


If they want to prove me wrong, then fine. They can prove their sincerity by standing up to a governor who requires businesses to ask for her permission before they can open for business and bring employees back to work.

Since the governor is a fellow democrat herself, I wouldn't expect to happen anytime soon.

Jay Youngflesh
Fri, 05/08/2020 - 7:52pm

I agree with everything Kevin has said. It is sad we only hear one side of the news. What happened to “news” not some opinion based or copied from the AP?

Paul Jordan
Sat, 05/09/2020 - 10:53am

Does it strike anyone else as peculiar that we seem so polarized--illustrated in the juxtaposition of this article on promoting worker safety and commentators advocating for business interests, presumably over worker safety?

These two things are not, in reality, contradictory. Healthy businesses depend upon healthy employees, and healthy customers. A business where lots of employees are coming down with COVID-19 will not be in business for very long. Customers will not patronize a business where there is not visible credible evidence that they are being kept safe.

It is therefore extremely odd that Mssrs. Grand and Youngflesh are not enthusiastically supportive of enhanced efforts to promote workers' safety in this situation.

Kevin Grand
Sat, 05/09/2020 - 8:04pm

Did it ever occur to you, Mr. Jordan, that it is in the best interest of businesses to watch out for the well being of their workforce (and customers) WITHOUT the government?

The "enhanced efforts" you support have resulted in Michigan's unemployment rate shooting towards depression-era levels.

Unless that is your end goal, as well?

Sun, 05/10/2020 - 8:37am

I guess what I object to about this article.. . Yes, mr. Jordan is right that we should work together as a society. But I think mr. grand and mr. youngflesh also have a point—-the state government too often acts as if it controls the economy. But it is The general public that controls the economy. So, to me, for the writers of this article to come up with their plan as if they control the situation—it’s not the best POV. Are they going to fund the effort? No, the taxpaying public will and those who pay should have the say.