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!

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

michael-baumgartner

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]

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

“Proven standards…to protect public health, family economic security, and business prosperity” [VIDEO]

Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, testifies before the Washington State House Commerce & Labor Committee on HB 1356 (paid sick and safe leave), HB 1355 ($12/hour minimum wage), and HB 1354 (employee anti-retaliation), February 17, 2015:

Click to watch (opens in TVW website)

Click to watch (opens in TVW website)

I’m Marilyn Watkins of EOI.

Together these 3 bills strengthen our state economy, not only in the short run by boosting family incomes, but also long term by helping people keep their jobs. Every time someone loses a job, they are at much higher risk of depleting assets, potentially losing their home, needing public assistance, and reducing future retirement income.

Without government enacted standards, 40% of US workers don’t get a single day of paid sick leave. Among workers with the lowest 10% of pay, only 20% are voluntarily offered sick leave by employers. They must choose between keeping needed income and going to work sick.

Passing paid sick days will both improve the health of Washington’s children, and help close the achievement and dropout gaps for low income kids and children of color.

Nearly 2/3 of kids who qualify for free or reduced price lunch have parents with no sick leave. That means those kids are more likely go to school sick, less likely to have health conditions like asthma treated, more often have to miss school to care for sick younger siblings.

Paid sick leave also makes workplaces safer, saving in the workers’ comp system. Researchers from the CDC found workers without paid sick days are 28% more likely to suffer non-fatal workplace injuries.

Paid sick leave standards have now been passed in nearly 20 cities and 3 states. There is no evidence from any source using generally accepted social science methodologies that business or job growth has suffered in any of the jurisdictions with sick leave laws.

According to the University of Washington study of Seattle’s law, job growth has been stronger in Seattle than in the surrounding cities since the ordinance was implemented, while provision of sick leave in restaurants increased from 14% of employers to 78%.

House Bill 1356 establishes proven standards that we know work to protect public health, family economic security, and business prosperity. Please pass all 3 of these bills.

“Advancing paid sick days and raising the minimum wage boosts our families and our economy” [VIDEO]

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director of MomsRising.org, testifies before the Washington State House Commerce & Labor Committee on HB 1356 (paid sick and safe leave) and HB 1355 ($12/hour minimum wage), February 17, 2015:

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Click to watch video (opens in TVW website)

Mr. Chair, and members of the Committee, thank you for having me here today.

My name is Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and I’m the Executive Director of MomsRising, which has over a million members nationwide, including 40,000 members here in WA.

I’m here today to share the voices of our members, moms of Washington, who know that advancing paid sick days and raising the minimum wage boosts our families and our economy.

For example, a MomsRising member, Barbara, shared that she didn’t have access to paid sick days so had to significantly delay taking her daughter, who had an ear ache, to the doctor. This delay resulted in her daughter having permanent hearing loss.

And, Christy shared: “When my two sons were young, I always had 2 or 3 jobs at minimum wage and we barely were able to make it. You have no idea how much that effected my kids from not getting the proper dental care or clothing when they needed it.”

Our families are in crisis and this crisis hurts our economy.

The astonishing fact is that nationally 80% of low wage workers don’t have a single paid sick day, and, women (including moms) comprise the majority of low-wage, minimum wage workers.

Fortunately, advancing paid sick days and increasing the minimum wage are win-win policies. In fact, studies show that they improve public health, family economic security, and boost our economy.

The truth of the matter is that our national economy takes a beating when workers have go to work sick due to a lack of paid sick days; costing us roughly $160 billion a year in lost productivity.

Studies also show that raising the minimum wage boosts our economy. In fact, nationally 140,000 new jobs would be created by raising the minimum wage, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago says a raise in the minimum wage would help our economy by increasing household spending nationwide by about $48 billion.

In closing, win-win solutions are possible: Raising the minimum wage and advancing paid sick days boost our families and our economy. The moms, dads, sons and daughters of Washington are counting on you. It’s time.

Thank you for considering and advancing these important bills. Thank you.

“Unequal pay isn’t rare – it’s common and prevalent in all job sectors” [VIDEO]

Sandy Restrepo, a local attorney, testifies to the Washington State House Labor Committee in favor of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), February 2, 2015:

Click to watch testimony (opens in TVW window)

Click to watch video (opens to TVW website)

Hello my name is Sandy Restrepo and I’m here today to testify in support of HB 1646, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act.

As a mother, Latina and now lawyer, I have endured many hardships. As mentioned earlier, typically as a Latina I make 67 cents to every dollar a white man makes. I’m the first in my family to graduate college and first to pursue graduate degree. Throughout my studies, I have supported myself with low-paying jobs.

Between undergrad and law school, I accepted a position at a prestigious non-profit. Months into my new job, I learned that an equally qualified man was offered 20 percent more in salary than I was offered. I expected an organization that stood for justice would treat me fairly but unfortunately that was not the case. Unequal pay isn’t rare, it’s common and prevalent in all job sectors.

As an immigration attorney, I see all too often my clients earn significantly less because they are immigrants, women and/or don’t know their rights.

That’s why we need this legislation: to make sure this systemic injustice is eradicated.