Show WA legislators you support Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Leave!

leave bank and stethoscopeTwo bills to improve economic security for Washington’s working families are off to a strong start in the 2015 legislature:

1. Paid Sick Days, to ensure everyone working in Washington can earn paid sick days on the job (HB 1356/SB 5306)

2. Family and Medical Leave Insurance funding and expansion which will (finally!) make paid family leave available to Washington workers and their families (HB 1273).

The paid sick days bill has unprecedented support with 43 sponsors, and the family leave insurance bill has similarly strong support — but there’s one thing missing: you!

Both bills are both scheduled for hearings next week — can you come to Olympia to show strong citizen support for either one (or both) of these bills?:

  • Paid Sick Days: Monday, January 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m. – Hearing Room B, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia
  • Family Leave: Thursday, January 29, 8:00-10:00 a.m. – Hearing Room D, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia

Can you be there? If so, please click here to tell us you’re coming.

If you’re not able to make it, we understand – but there’s still a way you can help: tell us about a time when you or a loved one really needed paid sick days or family leave insurance, but didn’t have it. Or a time when you had leave, and really relied on it to keep yourself or your family healthy.

Legislators are bombarded by facts and figures every day; it’s the personal stories that really resonate with them. Let’s make sure they won’t forget why paid sick days and family leave insurance matter so much to Washington families!

Thank you – hope to see you there!

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act: A Step Toward Fair Wages for Women

By Marilyn Watkins, Ph.D and Sam Hatzenbeler, MPHc, Economic Opportunity Institute


Click to download PDF of full brief

From high-profile CEOs and movie stars to healthcare and retail workers, men consistently make more than women. Social scientists and economists have found clear evidence that gender-based discrimination persists – and is so deeply ingrained in culture and practice that it often goes unrecognized. Ensuring that all employees have the right to discuss and ask about pay and job opportunities, and that anti-discrimination laws are effectively enforced, will benefit women, families, businesses, and our state economy.

The Economic Opportunity Institute’s latest policy brief explains what the wage gap is, what causes it, and most importantly, what we can do to fix it.

So what exactly is the wage gap, anyway?

More than seventy years after Washington State banned paying women less for similar work, women’s pay still trails significantly behind men’s. Women make up almost half of the workforce and are either the sole or primary breadwinners in over 40% of families with children nationally. Yet, the typical Washington woman who worked full-time, year-round in 2013 took home only 80 cents for every $1.00 made by a man.

On average, Washington women working full-time in 2013 were paid $18,000 less than men, diminishing family budgets and undercutting community business prosperity. Women of color face especially large wage disparities. Nationally, median pay for White women is 78% of White men’s, for Black women 64%, and Latinas 54%. The wage gap persists at all education levels and across occupations.




Why is there a Wage Gap?

The wage gap persists for a few key reasons:

  • Occupational segregation and devaluing “women’s work”: Continued occupational segregation and the lower value society assigns to “women’s work” explain a big part of the wage gap. Segregation persists and men’s jobs pay more within occupational categories.
  • Time out for family care: Women are more likely than men to work part-time and to take time out of the workforce for family care responsibilities. In Washington, women make up 47% of the full workforce, but hold only 41% of full-time, year-round jobs.
  • Motherhood penalty: On average, mothers tend to make lower wages than women without children, regardless of education and hours worked.
  • Discrimination: Economists have found that up to 40% of the wage gap cannot be explained by differences in occupation, industry, union membership, education or experience. At least part of this “unexplained” wage gap is related to discrimination.

Screen-Shot-2015-01-22-at-9.15.12-PMWhy Existing Laws Aren’t Enough

Washington State passed an Equal Pay Act in 1943 during World War II, when many women were performing traditionally male jobs. That law prohibits paying women less than men in similar work or in jobs formerly held by men. But to pursue a discrimination claim under this law, a woman would have to sue her employer in court and could only recover lost wages, not court costs or attorney fees.

Both Washington State and the federal government have passed additional anti-discrimination laws that protect people in a number of categories, including gender, race, disability or veteran status. Under these laws, however, women must prove intentional discrimination.

Many women never find out they are being paid less due to pay secrecy. While salary information is usually openly available in public sector jobs, one third of private firms admit in national surveys to actively discouraging or prohibiting employees from discussing their pay with other employees.

Modernizing state law: The Washington Equal Pay Opportunity Act

No single policy will close the gender pay gap, but some simple policy changes will make it easier to identify and challenge practices that have discriminatory results:

  • Protect the rights of all workers to discuss or ask about compensation, and prohibit retaliation against employees who do so. This will enable workers to find out if others in the company are being paid more for the same work.
  • Protect the right of workers to ask why they are being paid less, or why they do not have the same access to job or career opportunities as others.
  • Authorize the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to investigate charges of gender discrimination so that workers aren’t forced to go to court, and require employers to justify differences with job-related reasons, such as education, skills, or experience.

Pushing to the Next Level

Greater transparency in the workplace will provide everyone with more opportunity to gain equal wages. It will also open new career opportunities for more women and begin to challenge society’s general undervaluing of women’s work. Stronger fair pay legislation, together with more family-friendly workplace policies such as paid sick days, family and medical leave insurance, and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding women, will boost family budgets and women’s lifetime incomes. Local businesses will benefit, and our economy and communities will be stronger, when women have the opportunity to achieve equal pay.

Legislators look at bridging gender pay gap


Jean Godden

Jean Godden used to be one of six columnists for the now-closed Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. The other five were men. Then, Godden, who is now a Seattle City Council member, found out she was the lowest paid of the six.

“I don’t want another woman to face the same problem I faced with wage discrimination,” Godden said at a Thursday announcement of two proposed bills in Washington’s Legislature to tackle the disparity between what men and women are paid for similar work.

“Even today, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men for similar work,” said Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island. Senn and Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, plan to introduce companion bills to require employers to provide valid reasons — such as differences in education, training or experience — if employees challenge pay disparities between workers of the opposite sex for essentially the same work.

The proposed bills would allow gender-based pay disputes to be taken to an administrative judge at the Washington Department of Labor & Industries. The bills would also forbid employers from ordering workers not to disclose their salaries, and would forbid ordering employees from sharing pay information with each other. Nine states have similar laws.

Full Story: »

You shouldn’t lose your job for being sick or for caring for your kids: Lateasha’s story

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 9.49.19 PMWashington workers deserve paid sick leave. All too often, workers are forced to choose between their families and their jobs, which can result in a disastrous string of events. Paid sick days allow workers to stay home when they fall ill and to care for a sick child when they need it  most. Guaranteeing paid sick time means workers can stay home without losing wages -preventing hard working families from falling into poverty. Lateasha, a single mom here in Washington, shares her story about how paid sick leave could have made all the difference. 

I lost my job because I had to take time off for sickness. I hope that sharing my story will help people understand how important it is for working parents like me to have paid sick leave.

I’m a single mom to three wonderful children. We became homeless and moved into YWCA Family Village in Redmond, Washington on July 1, 2013. On November first, I found seasonal work for the holidays at a local department store. I stocked shelves after hours and did some customer service. I liked the job and it was really close to my apartment here.

I did a good job and was asked to stay on the job after the holidays which was great. I was promoted from seasonal to part-time. I didn’t miss any days of work.

In late January, I got a terrible pain in my tooth and could not work. I always called in and spoke with my supervisor. I missed three days. When I returned to work, my supervisor started cutting my shifts so I got less hours and less pay. She also assigned me to some different projects. I felt like I was in trouble because I missed work, but no one said anything about my job being in jeopardy.

My tooth got worse. My face got swollen from an infection and I had to see a dentist. The dental care helped and I began to feel better.

Then, my youngest child got head lice and MRSA which are both very contagious. He was not allowed to go to childcare – which I understand – but I’m a single parent. Luckily, my brother was able to babysit so I didn’t miss too many days – only four.

But, when I did call in sick on May 6th, I was fired. I was told that I missed too many days in a calendar year and I was no longer employed there. Altogether, I missed 7 days between November 1st and May 6th.

I just got a better job doing some warehouse work which I like. I hope that it will become a permanent, full-time job that includes paid leave.

What happened to me happens to lots of people. We should find a way for part-time workers to have some paid sick leave. You shouldn’t lose your job for being sick or for caring for your kids.

Editor’s note: We want to hear from you! If you have a story about how you have been affected by a lack of paid sick time or family leave, please contact Your stories can help legislators understand the importance of paid sick days and family leave. 

Will the Tacoma City Council pass the weakest paid sick days law in the nation?

Man-sick-in-bed-eating-so-006No one should be forced to go to work sick. No one should be forced to stay at work when they have a sick child waiting miserably at school.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland unveiled a paid sick and safe leave proposal to City Council last Tuesday. She pushed back against dissenters on the Council who wanted to delay, saying she didn’t need a formal study to know that her constituents needed paid sick leave.

That’s great news for the 40,000 or so workers in Tacoma who don’t get a single paid sick day now, and the many more who face penalties for using the leave they’ve earned. If Tacoma adopts a paid sick leave standard, it will join a rapidly growing list of nearly 20 cities across the U.S.

Unfortunately, if Tacoma’s City Council sticks with Strickland’s initial proposal, thousands of workers will still be forced to go to work sick, and it would be the most watered-down municipal sick leave law in the country.

The Mayor’s plan would allow workers to use only three days of paid sick leave per year. That means working moms could not use their precious hours when they had the flu themselves. They’d have to save their leave for the inevitable times when their child came down with a fever. Kids from lower income families – already facing a host of challenges in achieving their full potential – would continue to suffer the most.

In 2013, 64% of Tacoma school kids qualified for free or reduced price lunch. According to national studies, the working parents of two thirds of those kids probably have no paid sick leave now. With only 3 days of sick leave, those working parents would continue to have to make tough choices, and their children would continue paying the price. Send a sick child to school or be short on rent? Stay home with a contagious virus or buy groceries?

The Mayor justifies a 3-day limit by claiming that’s the average used by workers in San Francisco, where a sick leave law has been in place since 2007. But that average includes workers who take no sick leave some years, and a week or more in others. The flu is contagious for seven days or more, according to the CDC. So is Norovirus, which most of us know as stomach flu, and is frequently spread by sick restaurant workers.

Under Strickland’s plan, workers on the front lines of public health in hospitals, groceries, and restaurants would also be forced to continue coming in sick, or lose family income and very possibly their jobs.

The Mayor’s draft bill would allow hospitals to continue the practice of assigning punitive attendance points for every day missed, regardless of cause or the number of sick days the employee had earned. So a nurse who stays home with the flu until she is no longer likely to infect vulnerable patients could find herself fired.

The draft bill also fails to immediately cover workers who have union contracts, including many nurses and grocery workers, who now have to be out two days without pay before their sick leave kicks in. And it allows restaurant owners to take away sick time employees earn without paying them, if the worker swaps a shift.

To actually protect public health and family economic security, Tacoma needs a stronger law. Workers should be able to earn and use up to seven days of sick leave each year, and carry forward unused leave so they don’t have to start over accruing each January just as flu season is peaking. All workers need protections, including those who work in restaurants, with union contracts, or for employers who punish workers for staying home when sick.

Mayor Strickland is right. Her constituents need a sick leave law – but not the weakest one in the nation. The cities that already have laws find their businesses are continuing to prosper, since there’s less spread of disease and higher productivity in the workplace, and customers have a little more cash in their pockets.

The Healthy Tacoma coalition is leading the charge for a law strong enough to protect family and public health. Find out how to weigh in yourself at Healthy Tacoma or on Facebook.

Via the Economic Opportunity Institute

An election sweep for paid sick days!

In 2014 alone, our movement has more than tripled the number of workers who will be able to earn paid sick days – now nearly 10 million workers. Many more wins are on the horizon. Congratulations to our coalition partners in California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey!

Many more wins are on the horizon. Join us!

2014 election sweep for paid sick daysShared from Family Values at Work


We still don’t ‘get’ women as equals

By Seattle Times Staff Columnist Jerry Largebusinesswoman-454871_640

Seeing women as full people is kind of a new thing, I mean it must be, because we continue to have trouble making that leap. And when I say we, I don’t just mean men, I mean women, too.

The persistence of domestic violence, pay gaps, and exploitive or dismissive media portrayals suggest we have a problem that is so pervasive as to seem almost normal and therefore invisible.

There are statistics, but too often they are waved off as primarily problems with women rather than indications of something societal, so that solutions begin with, “If women would only” ­ … be assertive like men, dress differently, take more math classes, pay less attention to children. …

And you know, sometimes those prescriptions work for some women in some circumstances. But those adaptations never get to the heart of the systemic problem, and, really, how many people believe there is a systemic problem?

Last year, a study said Seattle’s gender pay gap was the worst in the nation among major metro areas. A year later, census figures show us being fifth, with women earning 78 cents for each dollar men earn.

The gap isn’t new, and neither were many of the online responses to stories about the data, mostly advice that women go for the same jobs as men.

There are at least a couple of problems with that. One is that it doesn’t ask why we decide which jobs have what value. Women tend to be overrepresented in some fields that I would argue are undervalued considering their contribution to society, such as child care and early education.

Women comprise nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers nationally and 57 percent in Seattle. Raising the minimum wage is in part a gender-equity issue.

If all those women could get the education or training needed for higher-paying jobs they’d face the second problem, which is that even in the same jobs men usually are paid more. (Family-friendly work policies might eliminate much of that gap.)

And, in many higher-paying fields, getting in the door isn’t as easy for women as for men.

One of the theories about why Seattle lags behind other cities in pay equity is that there are so many high-tech companies here, and they tend to have heavily male workforces. Studies have shown that the people doing the hiring tend to favor men over women even if they have the same qualifications, and sometimes when women have more qualifications. Even women usually choose men over other women.

Of course, a woman has to get to the point of getting those qualifications, which means overcoming bias against girls in math and sciences in high school and college.

All of that adds up to a problem that is not about a jerk here or an unqualified woman there. The problem runs through our society. It is in our culture, in how we view the capabilities and tendencies of men and women. We see them as more different than they are, and we believe the differences are definitive.

Not only do we imagine two very different kinds of human beings, we value one more than the other. In fact, the presumed differences justify male primacy and devalue women, not just in the workplace but in every space.

Why did Ray Rice, the pro football player, think it was OK to beat his fiancée? Well, some said it’s because he’s a monster, a bad individual and not necessarily a product of a society in which domestic violence is a constant threat to women. He isn’t the only monster.

His team and the National Football League had to be shamed into taking action against him.

We’ve had periodic reports of high levels of spousal abuse in the military, in police officers’ households, on college campuses. It happens with great frequency on Indian reservations and in poor neighborhoods, but those are less in the public eye.

Why do we pay attention for a moment, as in the Rice case, then go about our business?

Isn’t it curious how often entertainment, whether TV shows, movies or video games revolve around some violent act against women?

We can turn to the news for balance, but who’s telling the story there? Last year, the Women’s Media Center counted newspaper bylines, TV anchors and found an imbalance, 63 percent men, 36 percent women.

Maybe we’re not seeing the world as clearly as we could. If we did, we would see that people are not entirely defined by their reproductive parts. Maybe we could separate real differences from imagined ones that stand in the way of equality.