Sick leave advocates plan ballot drive
LANSING (AP) — Advocates said Monday they will launch a 2020 ballot drive if the Republican-led Legislature successfully guts a new law that made Michigan the 11th state to require employers to provide paid time off to workers who are sick or who have ill family members.
MI Time to Care organized the 2018 citizen initiative that lawmakers adopted three months ago and now are trying to significantly scale back in their lame-duck session — an unprecedented step. The ballot committee filed identical petition wording Monday, the first move in the initiative process.
Co-chair Danielle Atkinson said legislators who vote to water down the law “may delay Michiganders getting earned sick time rights, but they won’t stop us.”
Outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Snyder has not said if he would sign the bill and a separate one to delay a minimum wage increase. But if he did and legal challenges were unsuccessful, Republicans could not use a similar maneuver in 2020 because Democrat Gretchen Whitmer — a supporter of paid sick days and a higher minimum wage — will be governor.
“We are prepared to come to the table to negotiate with legislators about specific concerns they have, but we will not stand by while they gut the bill,” Atkinson said.
To prevent the citizen initiatives from going to electorate earlier this month, where they would be much harder to change if voters had passed them, GOP lawmakers preemptively approved them in September so that they could alter them after the election with simple majority votes in each chamber.
The Senate last week approved legislation that would exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees from having to provide paid sick time, limit the amount of annual mandatory leave at larger businesses to 36 hours, instead of 72 hours, and make other changes such as covering only those who have been on the job for at least a year. The House is poised to pass the bill Tuesday, over objections from Democrats that the tactic would be unconstitutional, spark lawsuits and thwart the voters’ will.
The legislation would exclude more than half of Michigan’s workforce from a benefit that is less likely to be offered by small- and medium-size companies, according to critics.
Business groups say the GOP-backed changes are needed because the “poorly written” ballot measure was funded by out-of-state interests that proposed a “one-size-fits-all” solution that will especially hurt small companies and nonprofits. A memo circulated to legislators says Michigan’s sick time law, it not revised, will be the “most egregious” in the country and will cost employees other benefits and potentially their jobs.
To qualify for the 2020 ballot, MI Time to Care would need to collect 340,047 valid voter signatures.