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Should every worker in MI get paid sick leave? Voters could decide

Posted at 4:03 PM, Jul 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-15 16:03:08-04

LANSING, Mich. -- Advocates are pushing to put mandatory paid sick leave for all workers in Michigan on the November 2016 statewide ballot. The initiative, backed by the Time to Care Coalition, would require businesses to offer paid leave if a worker becomes sick or if a worker needs to care for a sick child. Workers would be able to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

“People are really interested in making sure that if you’re doing your job well, you’re showing up and you get sick, that you don’t have to choose between taking care of yourself or your kid or making the rent payment," said Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, who supported legislation introduced in March proposing a similar mandate .

“I think the drive to put paid sick leave in front of the voters is really saying this process in Lansing in broken so we’ve got to take it directly to the people.”

Statistics show roughly 1.5 million workers currently in the state, don't have the option of taking a paid sick day off from work.

Supporters of the mandate point to recent polling data that shows 86 percent of voters in Michigan  support paid sick days for employees.

Groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Restaurant Association argue an across-the-board mandate for all businesses, especially small ones, is not the right approach.

“When you’re talking about a one-size-fits-all rigid mandate , and then trying to fit that into a restaurant industry with a hallmark of flexibility, they don’t jive very well," said Justin Winslow, vice president of public affairs with the Michigan Restaurant Association.

Winslow said several of the association's group members with larger restaurants already provide benefits like sick leave.

“In the restaurant industry, you’re talking about 90 percent of restaurants that employ less than 50 people," he said. "That’s a lot of very small businesses and the ability to deal with the administrative side will be difficult."

Jeff Lobdell, president of Restaurant Partners Inc. which owns several Grand Rapids-area eateries, including the Beltline Bar, Sundance Grill and Bar, and the Omelette Shoppe, told FOX 17 in March the move toward a sick leave mandate could hamper business growth in the state.

Lobdell said he offers managers at his restaurants paid time off and maternity and paternity leave by choice.

A representative for the coalition told FOX 17 the group hopes to begin collecting signatures by Aug. 1 once a state elections board signs off on its petition language.