WA legislature takes a step toward paid sick days — here’s what’s next

You helped pack the room on Monday for the Paid Sick Days (HB 1356) bill hearing. Legislators heard passionate testimony from a school nurse, a grocery worker, a small business owner, a domestic violence advocate and a senior — all speaking to the importance of every worker having paid sick days.

And just this morning (Jan. 29), the House Labor Committee voted to pass the bill out of committee!

Here’s the next crucial step: the House Appropriations Committee will consider whether to send the bill to the full House for a vote. Please click here to send an email urging committee members to support Washington workers by moving paid sick days to the full House for a vote!

Your action today will help ensure over 1 million workers in Washington state can earn paid leave to care for themselves or a loved one – including 170,000 people working in accommodation and food service, 167,000 in retail and 93,000 in health care and social assistance.

More great news!

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Healthy Tacoma supporters turned out in force to show their support for a strong paid sick days ordinance to Tacoma’s City Council

  • There’s another important committee hearing coming up — if you’re in Olympia, please sign in support of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), to be heard on Monday, February 2 at 1:30 pm.
  • And finally, a big congratulations to our sister coalition Healthy Tacoma! Thanks to their two years of hard work, on Monday Tacoma’s City Council passed a Paid Sick and Safe Leave ordinance that will cover all workers in the city starting February 2016!

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

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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.

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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

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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: Crosscut.com »

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

 

Paid Parental Leave: The Status of Women 50 Years Later

logoFifty years ago the President’s Commission on the Status of Women recommended that paid maternity leave be provided to improve conditions for working women. While the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was an important step in improving access to leave for new parents, the United States is still without a federal maternity or family leave statute. This month, the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor released a full paper series commemorating the 50th Anniversary of American Women: Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. As part of this series, the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) prepared a paper that reviews data on the benefits of paid parental leave from the perspectives of individuals, families, employers, and the economy overall.

The report found that paid family and medical leave programs can have significant benefits to individuals, to businesses, and communities.

Economic Benefits

  • Improved Labor Force Attachment:
    • Women who are offered paid leave are more likely to return to the labor force in the year after they give birth than women who are not offered paid leave. Additionally, paid leave has been shown to have a positive effect on post-birth work outcomes.
  • Costs and Benefits to Firms:
    • Paid leave leads to negligible costs to employers in terms of temporary employee replacement costs or overtime paid to existing employees and has much greater potential gains in terms of employee morale and productivity.
  • Expands Economic Growth:
    • Paid leave can lead to increased labor force participation, increased fertility rates, and reduced spending on public assistance. Family friendly policies can help push the economy towards gender equality in the labor force, therefore mitigating the effects of a shrinking, aging workforce and increasing GDP.

Health Benefits

  • Increases initiation and length of breastfeeding:
    • Breastfeeding can increase bonding between the child and nursing mother, stimulate positive neurological and psycho-social development, and strengthen a child’s immune system. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the risk of health problems and disease.
  • Reduction in the risk for infant mortality
  • Increases well-baby care and vaccination rates
  • Improves mother’s emotional well-being and mental health
  • Maternity leave allows mothers to increase the quality of care given to her child and can help prevent postpartum depression and stress

Family benefits

  • Greater paternal engagement in caregiving:
    • Fathers who take time from work around childbirth are more likely to spend more time with their newborns, which could reduce stress on the family and contribute to father-infant bonding.

FMLA, which provides men and women with job-protected leave for a number of caregiving purposes, has provided many American workers with unpaid leave for moments when family had to come first. But the law falls short of what families really need: universal coverage and income.

To qualify for FMLA you must work for a company with at least 50 employees and have worked 1,250 hours in the past year. That means part-time workers and small business employees aren’t protected. And most working families can’t afford to take two months off of work without income forcing many to choose between caring for their family or providing for them.

According to the report, the U.S. is “the only high-income country, and one of only eight in the world, that does not mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns”. Moving forward, IWPR urges the U.S. to catch up to other developed nations and address today’s workforce realities for both mothers and fathers through more comprehensive legislation. A paid family leave and medical insurance law would help build a more productive workforce, promote economic competitiveness, and bring substantial health benefits to individuals, employers, and society.

Pelosi: Extend California’s paid family leave to the nation

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking at a Washington Work and Family Coalition event in November 2013 on women’s economic security.

By House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

By helping 1.6 million Californians balance family and work, our state has demonstrated the success of paid family leave – and now it is time for the rest of America to join us.

Paid leave made a tremendous difference to Mary Ignatius when her second son was born with clubfeet. The doctors had explained to her the condition could be corrected, but cautioned that treatment would have to start immediately.

Caring for a newborn and Ignatius’ 4-year-old would have been a handful all on its own, but now there were weeks and weeks of doctors, casts, procedures and leg braces ahead for her baby boy.

Thankfully, Ignatius had access to paid family leave, so she could see her son through his treatments without giving up the paychecks she needed.

Most Americans are not so fortunate. Whether looking after a newborn, or tending to a recuperating family member or nursing a declining parent, too many Americans face an impossible choice between a paycheck they can’t afford to miss and bonding with a new baby or being there in a loved one’s hour of need.

Across the country, only 12 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave through their employers to care for a new child or seriously ill family member. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers.

For us to grow as an economy and a society, this must change.

Here, as in so many things, California is leading the way for the nation. For 10 years, our paid family leave program has enabled Californians such as Ignatius to take up to six weeks of paid leave to bond with their newborns and newly adopted children, or care for a seriously ill spouse, parent, child or partner. Starting in July, our state will cover care for siblings, grandparents and parents-in-law, too.

The program works by building on the state disability insurance program Californians have paid into for decades, creating minimal added cost to employees. In fact, the silent success of this program has meant that many California workers have no idea they are eligible for paid family leave.

Those who do take paid leave, however, find it invaluable – affording them the breathing room to tend to the health and strength of their families, while maintaining their commitments in the workplace. Businesses and families both benefit.

Expanding paid family leave to all Americans is a central pillar of House Democrats‘ economic agenda for women and families, “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

For our economy to grow, we need to unleash the full potential of women – and strengthen the middle-class families that are the backbone of our democracy.

Paid leave is a keystone of an agenda built to empower all of America’s women, along with raising the minimum wage, insisting on equal pay for equal work and providing affordable, quality child care.

With these measures, we can enable women and men to secure the balance between work and family they need to thrive.

Congress must pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would offer workers 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their salary to ensure that working men and women in every state of the union can have access to paid family leave. It proposes increasing the payroll tax contribution by 0.2 percent for employers with a match by employees.

California has once again taken the lead for our nation. Now Congress must act.

Originally published in the San Francisco Gate