House Dems Push for Increased Worker Protections as State Reopens

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
  • Following a continued statewide decline in COVID-19 cases, more Michigan workers are returning to the workplace as industries reopen.
     
  • Bills introduced by Michigan House Democrats would extend additional protections to Michigan workers to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19.
     
  • Bill package was introduced alongside companion bills in the Senate and address issues highlighted in the Michigan House Democrats’ comprehensive Michigan Strong plan.

LANSING, Mich., May 19, 2020 — State Reps. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham), Lori Stone (D-Warren), Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) and Sheryl Kennedy (D-Davison) introduced House Bills 5787 and 5797-5800 today to increase protections for those returning to work as the state begins the process of safely re-engaging its economy.

“The steps we’ve taken to successfully slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities is the only reason we’re able to consider safely reopening our state again,” said Pohutsky, who introduced House Bill 5787 to extend workers compensation protection to essential employees who contract COVID-19 while at work. “But the progress we’ve made will mean nothing if we don’t afford Michigan’s workers the protections they need to keep themselves and their families safe and financially secure as they return to the workplace. That includes holding employers accountable if they fail to create healthy work environments for their employees.”

“We know that Michiganders are eager to get back to their familiar routines again, but that will only be possible if we continue to work hard to ensure adequate safeguards are in place across our society,” said Manoogian, who introduced House Bill 5797 to encourage the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) and other state agencies to create general industry standards to limit possible COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. “If we want to put this devastating chapter of Michigan’s story behind us, and prevent it from happening again, we’re going to have to make real changes to keep workers, employers, customers, and our communities safe.”

The introduction of these bills follow Gov. Whitmer’s latest executive order allowing much of northern Michigan to begin a limited reopening of restaurants, retail stores, and certain offices this week. If the statewide decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths continues, additional regions of the state may soon be able to safely do the same.

“Every Michigander had a role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our state; and as our state begins to slowly reopen, everyone has a role to play in keeping our workers safe,” said Stone, who introduced House Bill 5800 to protect workers that report unsafe working conditions to MIOSHA. “Worker’s shouldn’t be forced to risk their lives if employers fail to provide protection from COVID-19 — and they shouldn’t have to risk their job just by filing a report. The only way out of this is by ensuring that workers have peace of mind knowing that when they are back on the job, they’re still safe.”

“Restoring Michigan’s economy is dependent on a worker's ability to keep COVID-19 away from the workplace if they have been exposed, or become sick. Workers need to have confidence that doing the right thing to reduce exposure to the disease will not jeopardize their job,” said Hood who introduced HB 5799 to prevent employers from retaliating against employees that stay home due to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. “If employees are forced to come to work sick or exposed, because they fear job loss, then we risk spreading the virus and another shut-down. We need to send a message to every employee and employer that workers who need to stay home because of COVID-19, must stay home without retaliation.”

Michigan has been one of the hardest hit states in the country, with Southeast Michigan taking the brunt of the damage. As of Tuesday, May 19, the state has run nearly 450,000 tests and has 52,350 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 5,017 total COVID-19 deaths.

“The advice we’ve received from experts at every level is that the key to re-engaging our economy is to ensure there is sufficient testing in place to isolate and treat cases as soon as they appear,” said Kennedy, who introduced House Bill 5798 to require employers publicly display a list of local COVID-19 testing sites for their employees. “Workers need to know when and where they can get tested as soon as they begin to experience symptoms or believe they may have been exposed to the virus. We only get one chance to transition back to the workplace in a way that prevents a resurgence of positive cases; we have to make sure we get it right.”

The issues addressed by these bills are highlighted in the Michigan House Democrats’ comprehensive Michigan Strong plan to deliver long-term solutions to the most urgent concerns brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic. Companion bills were also introduced by Michigan Senate Democrats.

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