The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 14, 2013

Local ban on required, paid sick leave for workers passes Senate

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – “A solution in search of a problem,” was how State Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) saw it. “Despicable” was the description given by state Sen. Coleman Young II (D-Detroit).

The object of their wrath: on June 5 the state Senate adopted SB 0173, which prevents Michigan communities from adopting ordinances that would require employers in their community to provide employers with paid sick leave.

Passage in the Senate came by a 25-13 vote, with only Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) joining Democrats in voting against the measure. The legislation appeared despite the fact that not a single Michigan municipality is even considering such a requirement, and only four cities across the nation have adopted such a law mandating sick leave. It is widely suspected that the source of the law is the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national, big-money group which is sponsoring model anti-worker legislation in states across the nation. Michigan’s newly minted right-to-work law is also suspected to be part of their “portfolio.”

Sen. Warren told MIRS News Service that the bill “flies in the face of local control.” A substitute bill that she sponsored lost on a 12-26 vote. It would require employers to provide paid sick leave, and  would have applied to businesses with one or more employees and applied to an employee who asks for time off for their illness or that of a family member, according to MIRS.

Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Gaines Twp.) sponsored SB 0173. He said “it's time to stay out of our business owners' business. We have a much more business-friendly climate than we did two years ago.”

When the bill first came up in committee three months ago, state Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) called it “economic suicide” for local communities, according to Progress Michigan.

The group reported this response from East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett: “If Rep. Nesbitt wants to tell any local communities how they should be run, he’s welcome to run for office in the Village of Lawton. In East Lansing, we’ve protected vital municipal services and invested in our community despite years of disinvestment by the state legislature – and the city has a AAA bond rating from Fitch. My colleagues and I on the East Lansing City Council don’t need Lansing politicians telling us how to run our community.”

Progress Michigan pointed out that studies show that paid sick days reduce government spending on public health insurance programs and promote reduced dependence on public assistance programs. Paid sick day ordinances also provide long-term cost savings for employers through increased productivity, and savings from reduced workplace contagion. Despite this, two in five private sector workers can’t earn the basic paid sick leave time they need to care for themselves and their families when they are ill.

“It’s ironic that Aric Nesbitt would get paid if he was sick and missed work, but this legislation would deny Michigan families the same protection,” said Jessica Tramontana, communications director of Progress Michigan. “It’s time for Republican politicians like Rep. Nesbitt to stop copying and pasting their attacks on working families from corporate lobbyists. Our lawmakers should drop the unconstitutional unfunded mandates and get to work immediately creating jobs and improving education by investing in our local communities, and leave the local regulations to locally elected officials.”

The bill now moves to the House Committee on Commerce, and there’s every reason to believe that the Republican majority will pass the measure in that body, too.