Late on June 30, as lawmakers in Olympia rushed to finish their work in time for the end of a third special session, the House and Senate passed paid family and medical leave. All that’s left is a signature from the governor, and with it Washington state will become a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Beginning in 2020, working families will be able to take extended paid time off for the birth or adoption of a new child, to take care of an ill family member, when a family member is deployed or wounded in military service, or for their own serious health condition. Read about what’s in the bill here.

This is a huge victory.

After more than a decade of work, we finally did it – and it was your advocacy that got us there. Over the last few months, members of the Washington Work and Family Coalition and our coalition partners sent in literally tens of thousands of emails to their legislators urging them to support this common-sense policy.

The program we passed will provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and 12 weeks of paid medical leave, with a combined annual cap of 16 total weeks of paid leave. Individuals with pregnancy-related complications may take an additional two weeks of medical leave and have an increased annual cap of 18 weeks.

For too long, when someone was facing a cancer diagnosis, was in a serious accident or needed surgery, they couldn’t take the time they needed to heal or care for their loved one and also cover their bills. New mothers have gone back to work before they and their baby are ready, and new fathers rarely took more than a week or two of leave.

That was the case when Christina and Tyler of Marysville welcomed their son Calvin into the world. Neither had paid leave at their restaurant jobs, and Christina ended up needing an emergency C-section. Tyler spent a few days with her and their new son, then returned to work, leaving her to heal from major surgery and care for Calvin on her own. Without Christina’s wages also coming in, they fell behind on bills.

Christina was one of the many workers, medical professionals, small business owners, and Work and Family Coalition members who came to Olympia to advocate for paid family and medical leave.

But Washington workers will no longer have to choose between taking care of themselves or their families and losing their job.

It’s been an honor to be a part of this grassroots movement, and we’re so thankful for your support. This isn’t the end of work for the Work and Family Coalition. We’re going to continue to work as the program is implemented and to pursue common-sense policies that support working families and make Washington a healthier place to live.

-Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director, Economic Opportunity Institute

Washington Work and Family Coalition

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