One step closer to real progress for Washington women and their families

Original photo: Rachel Samanyi

Original photo: Rachel Samanyi

We’ve just learned that the Chair of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on Paid Sick and Safe Days, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, and minimum wage legislation next Monday, March 30th at 1:30 p.m.

This puts us one step closer to real progress for Washington women and their families!

It’s going to be close, though. The committee must vote to move these bills forward by Wednesday, April 1 (no fooling!) or they will be dead for the rest of this year.

And we’ve heard that some corporate lobbyists are hard at work to kill the bills – or whittle them down to the point where they actually make it harder for women to earn equal pay and paid leave to support and protect themselves and their families.

Please take a minute to tell your Senator that Paid Sick and Safe Days (HB 1356), the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), and a $12 state minimum wage (HB 1355) are steps that help Washington women advance and strengthen our whole economy. Urge them to pass these bills without crippling amendments.

Washington state has led the charge for women in the past. Women here won the right to vote in 1910, a decade before the rest of the country. We passed the first Equal Pay Act in 1943, while Rosie the Riveters were helping win World War II.

But too many companies continue to discriminate, hiding behind pay secrecy policies and passing women over for higher paying jobs. And too few women – breadwinners for their families – can earn paid sick days on the job.

Take a moment now to tell your state Senator: Washington women deserve a raise, and the right to paid sick and safe leave. All workers do.

Thank you!

A woman’s work is never done: A new economic agenda

marilyn watkins

Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute

Women’s work is central to our economy. Most households couldn’t make ends meet without women’s income. Yet, women make less than men across every occupation. Because employers find ways to pay women less, families struggle to pay their bills, and can’t save for education or retirement.

To reach the same income the typical white man makes in 12 months, White women in the U.S. have to work full time until March of the following year, Black women to mid-July, and Latina women to October – of the second year!

Three bills before Washington’s State Legislature would strengthen finances in households all across our state by giving women a better chance for equal pay. The Democratic-controlled House has passed bills to raise the state minimum wage to $12 over four years, assure all workers can earn paid sick leave, and help women achieve equal pay. But all three could die in the Republican-controlled Senate. Of course, fair wages for women along with a higher minimum wage and access to sick leave, will boost incomes for men, too, but these are especially women’s issues.

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act, House Bill 1646, targets the gender pay gap by protecting the right of workers to talk about wages and job opportunities, so women can find out if they are being paid less or passed over for promotion. Even though pay discrimination based on gender has been illegal in Washington State since 1943, many employers prohibit employees from discussing pay. And many employers make culturally based assumptions about women’s capability for leadership, complex assignments, or traditionally male jobs.

Women in high tech complain about being passed over for promotions and having their ideas appropriated by men. In groceries, nine in ten meat cutters are men, while most deli workers are women. Guess which job pays more? The Equal Pay Opportunity Act will protect freedom of speech about compensation and require that differences in pay and career opportunities be based on job-related factors such as education or experience, not on perceptions about gender roles.

So far, none of our state’s major corporations have had to take a public position on the bill. It’s been largely ignored in the news media , so corporate lobbyists can whisper their position quietly to legislators.

Women are the majority of low wage workers. Some occupations that require skill and are important to society – like childcare and home healthcare – pay very little because they are deemed “women’s work.” Women also take home less than men in restaurants and retail jobs. Raising the minimum wage, as House Bill 1355 proposes, gives low wage workers and their families greater economic security, keeps people in jobs longer, and puts that money right back into neighborhood businesses.

southseaLimited access to paid sick leave is also a women’s issue. Mothers are more likely than fathers to have to stay home with a sick child. Six in 10 of those moms get no paid sick leave when they do. About 1 million workers in Washington don’t get a single day of paid sick leave. They have to make the tough choice of working sick or when their ill child needs them – or losing pay, and maybe risking their job.

When sick people can’t stay home, they spread their germs to the rest of us. Sick workers are also less productive and more prone to accidents, and sick kids can’t learn. Assuring that all workers can earn a few days sick and safe leave, as House Bill 1356 will, protects public health, keeps families economically stable, and enables domestic violence victims to seek safety. We also know from the successful laws in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and other cities and states that businesses thrive with paid sick days laws.

These three bills help businesses as well as families by helping companies retain trained workers, maximizing the abilities and contributions of all employees, and gaining new customers. These policies also help the state budget. Additional income for families means less reliance on public services and more money flowing through the economy producing tax revenue. Moreover, healthier kids with more stable lives will do better in school and in later life.

So why wouldn’t these great policies sail right through the Senate? That’s a good question to ask your state senator. You can send a brief message to your district legislators through the in-state toll-free Hotline number: 800-562-6000, or find your legislators’ contact information at here.

Via the South Seattle Emerald

One Senator blocking Equal Pay, Paid Sick Leave? Please help!


Urge WA State Senator Michael Baumgartner to hold a hearing on equal pay and paid sick days legislation, and pass both out of committee.

Hundreds of WA Work and Family Coalition supporters recently urged members of the state House to support Paid Sick and Safe Leave legislation and the Equal Pay Opportunity Act. And the House passed both!

Now, one state Senator is threatening to slam on the brakes. But we haven’t come this far to give up now – right?!

Here’s what’s happening: Both bills have been sent to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee — but Senator Baumgartner, the committee Chair, hasn’t scheduled them for a public hearing.

Please contact Senator Baumgartner and other members of the Senate Commerce and Labor committee today. Urge them to hold a hearing on both bills and pass them out of committee.

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act will ensure all workers can communicate about their wages and ask about access to career opportunities without fear of retribution. It’s a key tool for women to achieve equal pay for equal work.

Passing Paid Sick and Safe Leave legislation will help protect public health, build family economic security, and improve children’s outcomes in school. Paid sick leave laws are now on the books in over 20 cities and states across the U.S., so we know healthy workers and families also support thriving businesses and strong economic growth.

If these bills don’t pass out of committee by April 1, they’ll be dead for this year. Please don’t wait. Urge the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee to schedule a hearing for these two bills today.

Thank you!

~Marilyn, Gabriela and the entire team at the Washington Work and Family Coalition

Equal Pay Opportunity Act passes Washington House!

Photo credit: Keith Ellwood

Photo credit: Keith Ellwood

What’s that sound? It’s the sound of cheers and applause coming from women and their allies across Washington State.

Why are we cheering? Because the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646) just passed the Washington State House, with bipartisan support (55-43). The bill, if it passes through the Senate this session, will provide workers with key protections and help close the gender wage gap. The Act:

  • Protects employee communication about compensation and job opportunities, and clarifies that all employees can ask their employer why they are being paid less or don’t have the same access to career opportunities as others.
  • Adds being denied more favorable jobs or career tracks because of gender, in addition to pay discrimination, as a cause of civil action.
  • Strengthens existing enforcement by requiring a valid business reason related to the job – such as education, training, or experience – for a gender disparity in pay, hiring, work assignments, or career track; and by providing for recovery of damages and expenses in civil suits.

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act is sponsored by Representative Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), who believes it’s time to move quickly toward gender pay equity. “Even today, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men for similar work,” said Rep. Senn in her announcement of sponsorship of the legislation.

The Washington Work and Family Coalition has led the way in pressing for the Equal Pay Opportunity Act – and has shown outstanding leadership in working to combat gender discrimination across Washington State.

Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, which convenes the Coalition, says, “The EPOA will help women get ahead, and also help to change our culture so that women get the pay and opportunities they’ve earned. Our society still consistently undervalues women’s work and contributions, even all these decades after our state banned wage discrimination. Unequal pay leaves big holes in family budgets, makes it harder for local businesses to prosper, and means women get less in retirement, too.”

Thank you to Representative Tana Senn and the 44 other representatives in the House who cosponsored this bill.

We expect the bill to be heard in the Senate in the coming weeks. You can still send your stories and support for the bill to your Senators through the Washington Legislature page.

Women can’t wait for this bill. As Redmond High School student Olivia Roskill reminds us, “women are worth more than spare change.”

By Sam Hatzenbeler, MPHc

[Crossposted from Washington Policy Watch]

Minimum wage, paid sick days bills pass Washington State House!

Original photo: Rachel Samanyi

Original photo: Rachel Samanyi

Two key measures to boost Washington’s economy and protect the economic security of millions of working families in Washington have passed the state House:

  • State Minimum Wage Increase (HB 1355): Sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle); increases Washington’s minimum wage to $12 over four years.
  • Paid Sick and Safe Leave (HB 1356): Sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma); allows all workers in Washington to earn paid sick and safe leave to care for the health and safety needs of themselves and their families.

Members of the Washington Work and Family Coalition, which advocated strongly for both measures, issued the following statements:

“Together these two bills strengthen families and ensure that jobs boost rather than bust our state economy. These bills will improve public health and make family incomes more secure – especially for working women. That means children will do better in school, local businesses will benefit, and state revenues will increase,” said Marilyn P. Watkins, Ph.D., Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute.

“We are one step closer to better economic security for women and families! This is an important victory, especially for women and people of color who are over-represented in low-wage industries and disproportionality impacted by the lack of paid sick days. We are excited for those we serve and our whole community,” said Liz Mills, Advocacy and Policy Director at the YWCA of Seattle and King and Snohomish Counties.

“We are thrilled the House of Representatives passed the Paid Sick and Safe Days law,” said Grace Huang, Public Policy Coordinator for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Allowing domestic violence survivors to take time off of work to deal with the consequences of violence – without the fear of losing wages – leads to safer and healthier communities.”

Congresswomen Murray and DelBene champion the Healthy Families Act

Congresswomen Murray and DelBene introducing the Healthy Families Act in Seattle

Congresswomen Murray and DelBene introducing the Healthy Families Act in Seattle

The Washington Work and Family Coalition would like to offer big thanks to Senator Patty Murray and Representative Suzan DelBene for their courageous championing of the Healthy Families Act. Last Friday February 20th, Congresswomen Murray and DelBene hosted a press conference at Seattle’s Paramount Theater to introduce the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would allow workers with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year.

Here in Washington, 1 million workers still lack access to a single paid sick day and that, Murray and DelBene say, is unacceptable. “Workers should not be forced to choose between caring for their health and keeping their paychecks,” says DelBene. Senator Murray, who has cosponsored the bill every year since 2004 says, “no one should ever have to choose between their health, or a loved one’s health, and their economic security. Our outdated policies are forcing too many workers to make that kind of choice – that needs to change.”

If passed, the Healthy Families Act would:

  • Allow workers at businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year;
  • Guarantee workers at businesses with fewer than 15 employees up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days per year;
  • Allow workers to use their sick days to care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or other individual related by blood or affinity; and
  • Provide funding for outreach and education around the worker rights guaranteed in the law.

Workers around the country are leading the movement to demand paid sick days – and the Healthy Families Act comes in response to this growing national trend. Three states and 17 cities, including Seattle and Tacoma in Washington have passed paid sick days bills.

President Obama called for paid sick days in his State of the Union Address this past January. “Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.”

Thank you, Congresswomen Murray and DelBene, for your strong leadership and your commitment to supporting workers!

A big vote on paid sick days, minimum wage coming up for Washington’s working families

olympia springtimeThis past week, I heard Lilia, a working mom, testify to legislators in Olympia that even with two jobs, she has to remind her teenage sons to limit themselves to one glass of milk — because she can’t afford to buy more.

Another mother, Bianca, testified her job did not provide sick leave. She ended up quitting after her son became seriously ill.

That’s simply unacceptable. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

As early as next week, your legislator will cast their vote on two bills that will boost our state’s economy by protecting the economic security and improving the health of thousands of Washington families:

It’s common sense: our economy is stronger when our families are more secure. A higher minimum wage means fewer kids going hungry or staying home alone sick, and more women able to save for their family and future. Ensuring everyone has access to paid sick days means people can care for themselves or a loved one, without fear of losing wages.

Please take a minute today to ensure families like Bianca’s and Lilia’s don’t fall through the cracks any more. Urge your state representative to pass a $12 minimum wage and paid sick days for Washington!

Together, we can create change for working families. Thank you!

~Marilyn, Gabriela and the entire team at the Washington Work and Family Coalition