Senate Democrats Introduce Bills Protecting Workers’ Rights, Safety

LANSING, Mich. (Feb. 23, 2021) — A coalition of Senate Democrats have reintroduced legislation to protect workers from unscrupulous employers who may not have their employees’ well-being at the forefront of their operations.

Sens. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), and Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) have introduced Senate Bills 161-165 to ensure essential workers can access workers’ compensation benefits, that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) creates and enforces guidelines for workplace safety, and more.

“This pandemic has exposed serious shortcomings when it comes to workplace safety laws. Thankfully, the Whitmer administration understands this. However, Michigan needs to place strong workplace protections into law, for the long-term, to ensure workers can do their job safely, without being exposed to unnecessary risks, and with a strong system of accountability,” Sen. Chang said. “We must have workers’ compensation presumption for COVID-19, a strong Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration with more substantial fines, whistleblower protections, protection from retaliation in the workplace, and expanded testing for employees.”

Recently, Michigan topped 100 health or safety violations by employers against employees related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Testing capabilities in Michigan are much more advanced and accessible since we first introduced this legislation last term. However, we can and must do more to ensure our workplaces have the best interest of their employees in mind as they work to keep businesses open every day. That includes providing information workers need if they are concerned that they might be exposed,” Sen. Brinks added. “Without giving businesses and their employees every necessary tool to continue fighting this virus, we are doing them and their patrons a huge disservice.”

The bills introduced are:

“I represent one of our state’s largest economic hubs and, as our economy comes back online, Michigan families deserve to know that we are fighting to implement every needed protection at their workplace to keep everyone healthy. We won’t have a thriving economy without a healthy workforce,” Sen. Moss said. “These bills would keep workplaces safe while also giving critical consideration to those with underlying health conditions, lack of access to safe transit, and other barriers.”

MIOSHA regularly updates citations issued to companies found in violation of COVID-19 protocols. Companies that do not follow the guidelines are subject to emergency rule citations that can include fines up to $7,000, due to the COVID-19 related violations.

A full list of citations issued to this point — including company names, violations, and total fines — can be found online.

“As I stated last year, we must focus on our workers and how we can make the workplace safe for them to return,” Sen. Santana said. “For a post-pandemic economy to thrive, we must have healthy workers and a safe work environment.”

The legislation was inspired by the Senate Democrats’ proposal last year on regenerating Michigan’s economy, and reflects their continued commitment to putting workers and workplace safety first.

“Essential workers have risked exposure to COVID-19 to keep our economy running throughout this pandemic,” Sen. McCann said. “By ensuring essential workers are protected with workers’ compensation if they get sick with COVID-19, we can give them the safety and confidence they need so they won’t lose their job, their car, or their house.”

The bills have been referred to the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

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