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Paid Sick Leave, $12 Minimum Wage Supporters Decry ‘Gutting’ Of Policies

November 28, 2018

Supporters of the new $12 minimum wage law and paid sick leave policy created through the legislatively passed citizens initiatives earlier this year said any changes made to either in lame duck would be “gutting” the intent of both.

Legislation to lock a special minimum wage for tipped workers at 38 percent of the state’s minimum wage and a separate pro-business paid sick leave bill were introduced Nov. 8. They are the top lame duck agenda items for both the Republican-led House and Senate.

Gilda Jacobs of the Michigan League for Public Policy and Kyle DuBuc of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan said anything the Legislature does harms the intent of both pieces of legislation and runs afoul of the petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of voters.

“It’s also been very much indicated that this is a shell bill and there’s any number of amendments . . . that there is an intent to put into this bill,” said DuBuc of the paid sick leave bill. “Having seen this legislature on previous bills to bring changes to the floor, without a hearing, without debate, without hearing from the public . . . There’s real reason to be concerned about the real intent of the shell bill.” 

As it stands, SB 1171, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), stops the gradual planned phase-in of the minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.52 an hour to the minimum wage in the year 2024, which will be higher than $12 an hour.

This amounts to a philosophical debate about Michigan’s tipped culture for wait staff.

SB 1175, sponsored by Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), makes two changes to the paid sick leave bills, but could include much more.

Under Shirkey’s bill Michigan employees would still earn one hour of paid sick leave for 30 hours worked. Employees at larger companies could basically take nine sick days a year. Employees at small businesses could take five. That doesn’t change.

SB 1175 reads that in legal cases of conflict, employees must prove they were sick as opposed to employers proving that the employee was not sick. It also says employers should only be required to keep records of an employees’ work hours for six months as opposed to three years.

Workers want the records to be on file in case of future disputes. Employers don’t want to have to keep all this information around.

“The changes being made in the Paid Sick Leave Bill are singularly focused on maintaining the spirit of the citizen initiative while ensuring we are not burdening businesses with regulation which would result in disincentives for continuing to expand work force opportunities,” Shirkey told MIRS.

What DuBuc said he is concerned about is the numerous other issues the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have with the paid sick leave law. Dubac and Jacobs don’t want to see Shirkey’s bill turn into a Christmas tree of more ideas, even if ’tis the season for such activity.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has 10 major concerns with the paid sick leave bill, according to its talking points sheet put together by its director of health policy, Wendy Block. They include:

– That there are no exemptions for employers with existing paid leave policies or small employers. All employers will need to adjust their policies.

– Employees could, conceivably, disappear for three straights days without the employer being able to do anything about it.

– Employers could only require documentation after three consecutive leave days and when documentation is requested, the doctor’s note can be as little as a “generic statement.” Also, employers are required to cover the cost of this documentation.

– The policy covers temporary workers and independent contractors.

– Leave time can be used in small increments and the employer’s payroll system would need to be adjusted to account for that.

– Employees can carry over sick time from year to year.

“We’re not asking for anything extreme here,” Block said. “We’re asking legislators to be pragmatic and that is a paid sick leave policy work for employers and employees alike. As it is, this policy is extreme and egregious and we’re just asking for a debate on changes that get this back to reality.”

Asked if they would be willing to negotiate with Republicans to mitigate the changes or if there were any changes they could support, DuBuc and Jacobs indicated that they are “standing by” the policy that received the support of hundreds of thousands of Michiganders. 

“We’re talking about an attack on democracy in Michigan,” said Jacobs, a former legislator. “That’s the real story here, not what amendments would make it palatable for the various groups that have put this on the ballot.”

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