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.

Guess who’s leading on leave? (Hint: Not us)

By Secretary of Labor Tom Perez

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 8.18.34 PM

Tom Perez, 26th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor

I spent last week in Melbourne, Australia representing our government at a meeting of Labor Ministers of the world’s 20 major economies.

After sitting down with my G20 counterparts and learning more about their policies relating to work and workplaces, my main takeaway is that the United States is distressingly behind the curve on paid family leave.

It’s incomprehensible to me that we’re the only industrialized nation without a national paid leave law of any kind. How can we say we’re for family values when so many women in the United States have to jeopardize their livelihood to take a few weeks off from work after giving birth? Should a man have to sacrifice his economic security to take care of his sick mother or his wife returning wounded from active duty?

Our global partners have figured this out, building a solid consensus around these issues. They’ve taken partisanship and ideology out of the debate to recognize this for what it is – a 21st century economic imperative. They’ve discovered that paid leave, child care and similar policies increase our human capital by bringing more women into the labor force. They know it’s possible to have a growing economy, thriving businesses and family-friendly workplaces. They’ve realized we have to give people the tools to be productive employees and attentive parents – the two aren’t mutually exclusive, they go hand-in-hand.

Consider these examples:

  • Canada guarantees at least 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, with some employee cost- sharing as part of the national employment insurance system. Parental leave is 37 weeks shared between both parents with similar payments. There is also child care support of $100 per month for children under six.
  • The United Kingdom allows women to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave (including 39 weeks with pay), in addition to a range of options for paternity leave.
  • Australia offers up to 18 weeks of parental leave with financial support, and at 5.8 percent its unemployment rate is lower than ours. The conservative Australian government didn’t embrace this policy grudgingly; they made it a centerpiece of their campaign platform and want to extend it to 26 weeks with more financial support.
  • Brazilian unemployment is comparable to ours, but their women get 120 days of leave at 100 percent pay.
  • Japan offers paid maternity leave at slightly reduced salary and benefits for up to 14 weeks of total leave. Moreover, Prime Minister Abe has made “Womenomics” – increasing GDP by boosting female labor force participation — a cornerstone of his governing agenda.

So, where does that leave us? While the rest of the world leans in, we’re still falling behind.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much appetite in this Congress for forward progress on these issues. But instead of waiting for leadership from Capitol Hill, we’re incentivizing reforms at the state level where so much public policy innovation takes place. Later this week, I’ll announce the winners of $500,000 in total grants for states to explore the feasibility and evaluate the effectiveness of paid leave policies. Currently, CaliforniaRhode Island and New Jersey stand alone as states with paid family and medical leave laws.

Our pressing challenge right now is to ensure shared prosperity, to build an economy that works for everyone. That means investing in the middle class, rewarding hard work and responsibility, ensuring that everyone has a chance to succeed. Paid leave has to be at the center of those efforts.

Via Work in Progress, the Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Labor

[Editor’s note: The Department of Labor grants to expand and implement paid family leave have been announced! Congrats to Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Montana!]

When it comes to the pay gap, women don’t have a choice

download (2)This week the Census Bureau confirmed what many working women already experience: the gender wage gap isn’t closing – it’s stuck. Stagnant. While the gap between men’s and women’s earnings did narrow slightly in 2013, with women earning 78 cents for every dollar compared to 76.5 cents a year earlier, it has remained virtually unchanged since 2007.

Why is it that in an economy where women are more likely to go to college and make up nearly half of the labor force, the gender pay disparity remains persistently high? One common misconception is that women make less because of their job choices, like where to work, how many hours to work, and what level of education to obtain.

Nope. Researchers have estimated that as much as 40 percent of the gender wage gap cannot be explained even when taking into account gendered differences between the occupations, educations, and work histories of men and women.

Besides, many of these “choices” are in fact shaped by  discrimination that is far outside the ability of one job-seeker to control. Gender stereotypes, unreasonable and unpredictable hours in low wage jobs and inadequate government and employer response support for pregnant workers negatively affect women’s ability to succeed in the workplace. Women still bear a greater share of family caregiving responsibilities and make choices because they are disproportionately balancing the needs of work and family.

In other words, this isn’t about *what* woman choose, it’s about *why*. It’s about the ways in which women are systematically disadvantaged, from top female CEOs earning less than their male counterparts, to single mothers being much more likely to live in poverty than single fathers. Many fields are still segregated by sex and women are choosing occupations which penalize them the least for taking time out of work.

So how to fix it? Giving women the chance to have their voices heard in American workplaces is key to their economic security and the economic security of American families. That’s why The Center for American Progress, the President of the National Women’s Law Center, and President Obama have all expressed the need for a national women’s economic agenda that reduces discrimination in, and increase flexibility at, work — so women can “choose” differently.

This is not an easy climb – but fortunately, there are many paths to the top of this particular mountain. For example, in Washington, D.C., Senate Republicans unanimously voted to block the Paycheck Fairness Act which would ban salary secrecy and strengthen equal pay laws for women. But here in Washington State, the Washington Work and Family Coalition isn’t waiting for Congress to act. It’s pushing forward to strengthen women’s economic security through paycheck transparency, paid sick days, and paid family leave.


Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

And it’s a good thing too. The gender pay gap in Washington State is among the worst in the nation and it’s even worse in Seattle, largely due to the fact that its manufacturing and technology sectors, which have recovered quickly from the recession, are both male-dominated and well-paying.

In 2013, women who live in Seattle earned just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men — down from 86 cents in 2012. That 8 cents drop represents the largest 1-year widening of the gender pay gap among major U.S. cities, and puts us tied with Tulsa, Okla., as the fifth-worst in 2013.

That gap doesn’t just represent a paycheck differential. It represents how women are put in situations every day that for a variety of reasons mean they earn less. The only way to close that gap is to change the constraints that women face.

Ensuring that the work women perform is valued fairly, that women are not penalized unfairly for their caregiving responsibilities, and that there is greater transparency in workplace pay practices may not change the broader problem of how we value women in our society. But it will alleviate some of the constraints women face, so they can take control of their economic security and be free to make new – and better – choices for themselves and their families.

By Sarah Van Houten, MPA, Graduate Intern

Join us in strengthening women’s economic security – Bellingham

Bellingham forum flyer

Click to enlarge

You are warmly invited to join us in building women’s economic security across Washington state – next stop, Bellingham!

What: Strengthening Women’s Economic Security Forum

When: October 16th, 5:30-7:00 pm

Where: Bellingham YWCA, 1026 N. Forest St.

This event is part of a statewide campaign to strengthen women’s economic security. The previous forums in Seattle, Kirkland, Tacoma,Spokane and Vancouver have all been powerful successes.

We hope to see you there!

Having a child is good for your career – if you’re a man


Photo credit: John-Patrick Thomas

Great news! If you’re a man — especially a highly educated White or Latino man in a professional job — having a baby is great for your earnings. Congrats, dads! We’re happy for you. No, really, we are.

But what about women, you ask? The news ain’t so bright. Staff reporter Claire Cain Miller at The New York Times wanted to find out how parenthood affects earnings for men and women. Her findings are clear:

One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children. Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications.

For men, meanwhile, having a child is good for their careers. They are more likely to be hired than childless men, and tend to be paid more after they have children.

These differences persist even after controlling for factors like the hours people work, the types of jobs they choose and the salaries of their spouses. So the disparity is not because mothers actually become less productive employees and fathers work harder when they become parents — but because employers expect them to.

This bias is most extreme for the parents who can least afford it, according to new data from Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has studied the parenthood pay gap for 15 years. High-income men get the biggest pay bump for having children, and low-income women pay the biggest price, she said in a paper published this month by Third Way, a research group that aims to advance moderate policy ideas. “Families with lower resources are bearing more of the economic costs of raising kids,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Budig found that on average, men’s earnings increased more than 6 percent when they had children (if they lived with them), while women’s decreased 4 percent for each child they had. Her study was based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979 to 2006, which tracked people’s labor market activities over time. Childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents, widening the gap.

At the other end of the earnings spectrum, low-income women lost 6 percent in wages per child, two percentage points more than the average. For men, the largest bonuses went to white and Latino men who were highly educated and in professional jobs. The smallest pay bumps went to unmarried African-American men who had less education and had manual labor jobs. “The daddy bonus increases the earnings of men already privileged in the labor market,” Ms. Budig wrote.

The motherhood penalty hurts more than mothers. Women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of American families. When women aren’t fairly compensated for their work, it means they must pick up extra jobs to support their families. Children who grow up in low-income households are less likely to receive adequate healthcare, have enough food to eat and attend college. What’s more, devaluing women’s work, both in status and in pay, sends the message to young girls and women that their work is simply not as important as their male counterparts.

Addressing women’s pay gaps means adopting a package of laws to protect women – policies such as paycheck transparency, paid family leave and paid sick days. Without these, women will continue to be subject to the whims of employers and a politics of greed. It’s time to step towards a brighter future for women. We need it, we deserve it, we demand it.

By Sam Hatzenbeler, MPHc, Graduate Policy Intern