LANSING – The Michigan Senate-passed bill changing the voter-initiated law requiring employers to provide paid sick time their employees so severely guts the act with little hope of legitimate negotiations to soften the legislation that the organizers of the proposal say they will begin collecting signatures to bring their proposal back for the 2020 ballot.

The difference is that unlike what happened this year, when the Legislature adopted the initiative with the plan to amend it later, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will be in the governor’s office and likely refuse to sign a gutted version of the proposal. That means it would go to the ballot.

Danielle Atkinson, co-chair of MI Time to Care, which gathered the signatures for the proposal, said they have made requests to be a part of talks to “figure out a way forward legislatively” but been ignored.

“We are prepared to hear the case for reasonable changes,” Atkinson said in a statement. “But because the House leadership apparently plans to hide its vote by moving as recklessly as the Senate, that seems unlikely. So, we have no choice but to prepare to put this on the ballot again. And we will. … Our coalition and funding partners will not stop until Michigan has a viable paid sick time law that covers every Michigan worker.”

House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) told reporters Thursday the revision to the paid sick time proposal, as passed by the Senate, is necessary. He said hearings would be held on the SB 1175 on Tuesday.

Leonard said the changes still protect the intent of the initiated law. He said Republicans are looking at the best way to protect workers in the state and secure jobs as well.

“I have given the example, you take a landscaping company, some of those only have three or four employees, if all of them decide to collude and call in sick on one day, it could essentially shut down a small business,” he said.

When asked if people collude to call in on the same day, Leonard said he thinks it could happen under the initiative as written.

Under the MI Time to Care initiative, PA 338 of 2018 and yet to take effect, workers will earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 72 hours a year. But under SB 1175, passed Wednesday by the Senate and pending in the House, that would become one hour for every 40 hours worked up to a maximum of 36 hours a year. And only those workers at employers with at least 50 employees would be eligible.

Further, MI Time to Care detailed a number of other major changes the bill makes to their initiative:

  • Only those who have worked at their job at least a year will qualify, eliminating what MI Time to Care said are many low-wage workers who change jobs frequently and imposing a de facto one-year waiting period;
  • Only those who have worked at least 1,250 hours for the same employer would be eligible, a move MI Time to Care said would harm those who work combined full-time hours for different employers;
  • Workers under union contracts would be exempted;
  • Workers exempt from overtime requirements would be exempted;
  • Workers at employers with an existing paid-time off policy would be exempt even if the policy does not provide paid sick time;
  • Elimination of carrying over unused sick time from the up to 72 hours earned from year to year; and
  • The burden of proof shifts from employer to employee on disputes over how paid sick time is used.

MI Time to Care said the changes would mean only 45 percent of Michigan’s workforce would be covered.

Atkinson reiterated MI Time to Care’s view that amending the initiative in the same legislative session in which the Legislature adopted it is unconstitutional and said the organization would sue.

It was not immediately clear if the organization would immediately begin collecting the signatures necessary from registered voters or would await the outcome of court action. It will need at least 340,047 valid signatures.

This story was published by Gongwer News Service.