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“Deeply Out of Touch”: MI GOP Calls Paid Family Leave “Summer Break for Adults”

A Michigan Democratic leader said the suggestion is “offensive beyond belief.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer meets with volunteers for canvass kickoffs on Michigan Primary Election Day on August 2, 2022, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

According to a newly unveiled memo from Michigan Republicans, workers shouldn’t be guaranteed paid leave from work to care for one’s newborn or a seriously ill family member — instead, the party says it’s akin to taking “summer break.”

This week, Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on the Democratically-controlled legislature to pass guaranteed paid family and medical leave for workers in the state to ensure that workers can deal with personal matters without having to worry about losing their jobs or missing a paycheck. The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid family or sick leave to workers.

Apparently, Michigan Republicans believe that people should be forced to work or miss out on pay if they have to take care of themselves or their family. In a memo dated August 30 obtained by The Messenger, Republicans in the Michigan House called paid family leave a “ridiculous idea.”

“Lansing Democrats want to take money out of your paychecks with a new tax to pay for summer break for adults. It’s a ridiculous idea that people just can’t afford,” the memo said. The purpose of the memo is for “messaging points,” The Messenger reported, meaning that it’s circulated for politicians to use for talking points on the issue.

In a post on social media this week, Republicans also said that Whitmer’s call for paid leave to tyranny. “Aspiring tyrants never tire of grand plans of telling YOU how to live!!!” the Michigan Republican Party wrote.

Republicans were blasted for their obtuse messaging on what is a crucial labor policy for workers and families.

The memo “shows, once again, how deeply out of touch the Michigan Republican House Caucus is with Michiganders,” Lavora Barnes, the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, told The Messenger. “There is no way to spin it — this is a blatant insult to everyone caring for a loved one and having to make some of the hardest decisions of one’s life.”

Barnes said the language in the memo is “offensive beyond belief.”

The messaging displays the state Republicans’ ignorance of the purpose of guaranteed paid leave. To compare paid sick or family leave to “summer break” is to suggest that workers would only use such policies for fraudulent reasons. Of course, this is untrue just taken at face value — workers get sick and need time to recover. They also have children — perhaps children due to being forced to carry pregnancies to term as a result of Republican policies— and need to take time off to parent them.

It also suggests that it is negative for workers to take time off for pleasure reasons. Indeed, one Republican told The Messenger that the family leave policy would allow people to “falsely claim leave.”

Even if Republicans’ incessant claims of widespread fraud in welfare and other programs were true — and research has consistently shown that they are not — it is natural for workers to need time away from work. Michigan Republicans may know this well; the Michigan House, like many state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, is often out of session for weeks at a time.

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