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Michigan Democrats are seeking more worker protections as coronavirus restrictions on businesses

News Source

As more Michigan businesses begin the reopening process, legislative Democrats and labor groups are calling for additional paid sick time for workers and other measures to protect those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Michigan Legislative Labor Caucus rolled out a “Workers First Reopening Plan” this week featuring several proposals to allow workers to stay home without penalty if they are required to self-quarantine, stay home to care for a sick family member or are at heightened risk of complications from COVID-19.

“Working people can no longer afford to allow economic considerations to discourage them from taking the necessary actions to protect their health and safety, and the health and safety of their families,” Labor Caucus Chair Rep. Brian K. Elder, D-Bay City, said in a statement. “The cost is just too high.”

The plan also calls for the reversal of significant revisions to a citizen-led paid sick time proposal. In 2018, the Republican-led legislature opted to pass the initiative and amend it later on, significantly narrowing its scope.

Democrats have long criticized the move, and some now say the current policy puts workers at a disadvantage during the coronavirus pandemic.

Business groups contend the original paid sick time proposal would have put a strain on businesses and potentially caused some employees to lose their jobs, and many Republicans who supported the changes remain in the legislature.

Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber called the measures necessary to keep those who have been on the frontline during the pandemic are protected.

“The legislature needs to step up and do right by working people, to make sure they are protected as they return to the workplace," he said in a statement. “The Workers First Reopening Plan provides workers with the support and security they need to stay healthy at work, but also protections if they get sick on the job.”

Other measures proposed in the plan include allowing workers to leave an unsafe work environment and still be eligible for unemployment compensation and creating standards for scheduling and shift notices.

The proposals come as more Michigan businesses are being cleared to reopen after months of closures and bans on non-essential in-person activity.

Retail businesses are now allowed to reopen with strict social distancing requirements, and Michigan bars and restaurants were allowed to resume in-person dining services Monday. Personal care businesses like hair salons will be allowed to reopen next week.

Movie theaters, gyms and other places of public accommodation remain closed for the time being, although outdoor fitness classes are now allowed.

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