Zillow expands its family leave policy

KIRO TV interviewed Marilyn Watkins from the Economic Opportunity Institute about local tech companies expanding family leave benefits will catch on with lawmakers: “What I’m hopeful that will happen is that this will then encourage our state Legislature to act and move forward on adopting a paid family leave program that would cover everybody.” Yes indeed!

Watch it on KIRO: 


Paid Parental Leave Should Be Extended To All

moms and kids

Image via New Zealand Education Union/Flickr Creative Commons

Amazon has joined the growing list of tech companies to expand paid parental leave policies. Earlier this year, Microsoft, Netflix, and Adobe also announced more time off for new mothers and fathers.

Between them, Microsoft and Amazon have over 60,000 employees in the Seattle area. The City of Seattle, King County, Port of Seattle, and Gates Foundation – which collectively employ about 30,000 people here – also added paid parental leave benefits for their workers this year.

That adds up to a lot of local families who will benefit – but represents only a tiny fraction of the over 1.3 million jobs in the county and the more than 25,000 babies born in King County each year.

We have mountains of research showing how important the first few months of life are for a child’s long-term health, brain development, and social skills. Quality time with parents is critical. That’s why almost every other country in the world guarantees all new mothers, and often fathers, lengthy periods of paid leave.

Promoting the well-being of children and gender equity are among the goals of local governments taking action, but the tech companies aren’t acting out of concern for infant brain development. They are in cut-throat competition for trained talent, and trying to counter well-earned reputations for lacking diversity, being hostile to women and unfriendly to families. Netflix’s much ballyhooed offer of up to a year of paid parental leave callously excludes the folks who mail out all those DVDs. Amazon’s new policy fortunately does extend to full-time distribution workers.

It’s good that some employers are stepping up on their own, since Washington’s legislature and Congress have so far failed to act to establish paid family and medical leave for all workers. But until we act collectively to ensure that all new parents and children have this important benefit, we will continue to exacerbate the racial, gender, and class inequities that plague our society.

According to the US Census, 20% of King County households have annual incomes over $150,000 – including many of the employees of those techie companies. About half of Seattle-area households have incomes at or above the $72,000 that it takes around here for a family of four to pay for housing, food, childcare, and transportation without relying on public assistance.

But that means half struggle to cover the basics. It’s not just high-wage, high-benefit jobs that are booming here. So are jobs in food service, personal care, retail, and other services where pay is low and shifts are irregular. These workers are often parents, too. Many also have elder care responsibilities, and they juggle it all without access to pricey time-saving conveniences.

Nearly one in four households in King County scrape by on less than $25,000 a year. One third of single moms – and their children – live below the official poverty level ($20,000 for a family of three). For our youngest kids, the disparities by race are especially stark: 45% of Black children and one-fourth of Latinos under age five live in poverty, compared to 6% of young White kids.

The thousands of small businesses out there will have a hard time providing much paid parental leave on their own, and many big corporations won’t unless they are required to.

Last January, Washington’s legislature introduced a bill that would provide all workers in the state – whatever their income level – with up to 12 weeks of family leave, and up to 12 weeks for their own disability. People would receive two-thirds of their usual weekly pay when caring for a new child, sick family member, or recovering from their own serious health condition. To finance the system, workers would contribute a small payroll premium, matched by their employer, of a little over a dollar a week for the state’s typical worker. This simple insurance model is already working in California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii.

The bill made it through the House Labor Committee, but was not prioritized for serious consideration by the full Legislature. Will the growing attention from high-profile announcements and the Presidential race be enough to give the bill some legs in 2016? Not unless legislators get a serious push from their constituents to take action.

Original: South Seattle Emerald »

The High Cost of Unequal Pay

pay-gap-map_fall-2015-update_600pxThe gender pay gap is real, and it hurts women and families. It’s not myth, it’s math. Did you know that in 2014, women working full time in the United States were paid on average just 79 percent of what men were paid? Even one year out of college, within the same major, field and hours worked, men already earn 7 percent more than women — and that gap almost doubles in 10 years even though women are more likely to earn a master’s degree.

But the pay gap is about more than just numbers. Real people experience serious financial and personal hardship as a result of this persistent discrimination, aThe High Cost of Unequal Paynd working families and the entire economy suffer as a result.

Full story: U.S. Department of Labor Blog »

Seattle’s paid sick and safe time ordinance promotes safer families

MobilFrontiers_logo_031711October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Seattle Office of Labor Standards is highlighting the safe time provisions of Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) law.

You can download new flier about safe time protections to educate your co-workers, family, neighbors, and sister organizations. Available in English or Spanish.

Visit the Office of Labor Standards website or Twitter page to find community resources for:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Assault
  • Legal Help

Learn more about Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time law at: http://www.seattle.gov/laborstandards/paid-sick-and-safe-time

Paid family-leave proposal arrives with force before D.C. Council

working-dadDozens of supporters of a controversial proposal for the nation’s most generous family-leave law, including parents, small-business owners and union members, urged city lawmakers Tuesday to pass the measure supported by a majority of the D.C. Council.

“We’re here for all of the obvious reasons,” said Jamie Smith, of the Chevy Chase neighborhood, who had her 10-month-old son, Adam, bouncing on her lap at Tuesday’s council meeting at the Wilson Building. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Seven of the council’s 13 members co-introduced the proposed law Tuesday that would give every D.C. resident as much as 16 weeks of paid family leave.

The measure, developed with the help of the Obama administration, would allow residents to take paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a terminally ill relative, or for just about any life-changing event in between.

The broad new benefit would be paid for by a tax on D.C. employers of up to 1 percent of employees’ salaries. Business leaders warned that could be hurtful and put them at a competitive disadvantage regionally, but D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) moved to streamline a review of the proposed law, keeping it before his committee and therefore one step from a councilwide vote.

Full story: Washington Post »

40 Years Ago, Iceland’s Women Decided They Had Had Enough

Via Jezebel: On October 24, 1975, the women of Iceland decided they would stop woman-ing in a massive protest for the same rights as men. On that day, known as Women’s Day Off, 90 percent of the country’s women refused to go to work or do chores or care for their children, to call for the same rights as men. The country came to a screeching halt.

“What happened that day was the first step for women’s emancipation in Iceland,” Vigdis Finnbogadottir said in an interview with the BBC. “It completely paralyzed the country and opened the eyes of many men.”

The BBC reports:

Banks factories and some shops had to close, as did schools and nurseries—leaving many fathers with no choice but to take their children to work. There were reports of men arming themselves with sweets and colouring pencils to entertain the crowds of overexcited children in their workplaces. Sausages—easy to cook and popular with children—were in such demand the shops sold out.

It was a baptism of fire for some fathers, which may explain the other name the day has been given—the Long Friday.

In Reykjavik, around 25,000 women (an impressive fraction of the country’s 220,000 residents) gathered to hear speeches, sing songs of protest, and be, above all, a united front.

“It was the real grassroots,” Elin Olafsdottir, who was 45 at the time, told The Guardian. “It was, in all seriousness, a quiet revolution.”

“There was a tremendous power in it all and a great feeling of solidarity and strength among all those women standing on the square in the sunshine,” Vigdis told the BBC.

And the protests had tremendous impact—just five years later, Vigdis became the country’s first female president, a position which she would hold for 16 years.

“Things went back to normal the next day, but with the knowledge that women are as well as men the pillars of society,” she recalled. “So many companies and institutions came to a halt and it showed the force and necessity of women—it completely changed the way of thinking.”