Workers need paid safe leave

Spokane has an incredible opportunity to stand on the right side of domestic violence history this year by adopting an equitable safe and sick leave policy.

Many are not aware of this because of a narrow media focus on the “sick” part of the city of Spokane’s proposed “sick and safe leave” policy. It should provide an opportunity for all employees of Spokane businesses to earn paid time off to seek shelter, medical treatment, counseling, or law enforcement action related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner establishes and maintains power and control over another. As I educate companies in our area about how to recognize the signs of domestic violence among their employees, I often must remind them that RCW 49.76 has provided unpaid time off for survivors since 2008. This seven-year knowledge gap reminds me that once a paid safe leave policy passes, we must take a robust educational approach. This will ensure that every Spokane business understands their responsibilities clearly and stays in compliance to provide all survivors paid safe leave.

Why is this important to survivors?

Read more: The Spokesman-Review

Higher wages and paid sick days matter for everyone

iStock_000007676995MediumWe know a thing or two about low wages and paid sick leave. We are two retail workers in King County. Our union, along with many others — and health, faith and community organizations — support a higher minimum wage and paid sick days. We support these benefits for all workers. Not some, but all, regardless of whether the person is a union member or not.

Here’s something we bet you didn’t know: About one-third of Macy’s workers who are in our union, UFCW 21, and work in the downtown Seattle store are paid minimum wage. While the new higher minimum wage rose to $11 an hour April 1 in Seattle — and will go up to $15 in 2018 — it’s still not enough to pay the rent.

But, at least in Seattle, a worker who is sick doesn’t have to miss a day’s pay because the city’s Paid Sick and Safe Time law allows employees to stay at home and care for themselves or a sick family member without losing a day’s pay or facing discipline.

We have tried to get Macy’s and other employers to provide a higher base wage and paid sick leave in contract negotiations so that all workers, not just those who happen to work in Seattle, earn a higher wage and sick days.

Read more: The Seattle Times

High Inequality Results in More US Deaths Than Tobacco, Car Crashes and Guns Combined

A casket at the Museum of Funeral Customs, Springfield, Illinois, 2006. (Wikimedia Commons: Robert Lawton.)

A casket at the Museum of Funeral Customs, Springfield, Illinois, 2006. (Wikimedia Commons: Robert Lawton.)

Studies show roughly half of our health as adults has been programmed in the first thousand days after conception. So societies that privilege those first thousand days are healthier than societies that neglect them. There are only three countries in the world that don’t have a paid maternity leave policy. One of those countries is Papua New Guinea, half of a big island north of Australia. The second country is Liberia, in West Africa. And you can guess the third.

Read more: Moyers & Co.

Mother is calling on Gov. Inslee to fund paid maternity leave (Video)

Rebecca Valley, a new mom who works as an Administrative Assistant in Everett, is calling on Governor Jay Inslee to fund paid maternity leave. When she gave birth 11 months ago to her daughter Matilda, Rebecca planned to use her three weeks of paid time off to care for her newborn. She ended up needing to take an additional two weeks of unpaid leave because of an unexpected C-section. Then she went back to work – before she or Matilda were ready – in order to pay the bills.

Rebecca is asking Washington residents to sign a petition, urging the Governor to fund an existing state law that provides for paid family leave.

Click to watch video (opens in new window)

Click to watch video from KIRO TV (opens in new window)

Five states have paid family or disability leave programs funded through payroll premiums. New moms and babies are healthier in those states, and women are more likely to be working – and for higher wages – a year after childbirth than in states without paid parental leave.

Washington passed a Paid Family Leave Law in 2007, which was supposed to go into effect in 2009. But lawmakers didn’t approve funding, and then the recession hit. Paid Family Leave has taken a back seat to other issues ever since. This year, two Washington lawmakers introduced bills to fund the program, and to include leave to care for an elderly parent or other family member or the worker’s own serious illness. The bill passed the House Labor Committee and could be passed by the full legislature next January.

What will it take to make paid family leave a priority in Washington’s legislature?

EOI’s Policy Director Marilyn Watkins responds to KIRO reporter Siemny Kim: “Every time I see a pregnant woman, I get a little frustrated and mad that we don’t have that program operating yet. Lawmakers have to hear from the public.”

Via KiroTV.com

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.

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.

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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

Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman: Invest in Paid Family Leave

Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman Tom Nides Photo via Flickr

A strong voice from Wall Street is weighing in on the importance of paid family leave for parents of newborn children and people caring for seriously ill or elderly relatives. Tom Nides served as Deputy Secretary of State and recently moved to Morgan Stanley. The investment banker supports legislation that would create employee-paycheck deduction pools that would compensate workers during family leaves. Such bills have been introduced in Congress and in Albany, Nides said.

“For New Yorkers, it’s a huge benefit and a huge plus. We gotta move this debate forward. And by the way, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Last Wednesday, Rhode Island became the third state to offer workers paid family leave, along with New Jersey and California. New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both Democrats, have introduced federal legislation, but so far no Republicans have endorsed it.

Some business groups have said that even though family leave wouldn’t be paid by taxpayers or employers but by paycheck deductions, it should be voluntary, not government-mandated. Nides said it is an idea whose time has come.

“I am totally aware, as a businessperson and as someone who’s been involved in public policy for a long time, that this is difficult for a lot of companies, this is expensive,” Nides said. “But we’ve got to begin having this conversation in the United States.”

Nides said worker productivity will rise and employers will recognize the goodwill that comes out of paying for family leave time off.

“There’s no question that studies have shown that individuals given the opportunity to have a few weeks to take care of a newborn or a sick family member say it’s critically important to the productivity of that individual,” he added.

America lags behind many other developed nations in providing paid family leave.

By Mark Scheerer, Public News Service – NY
Listen to the full interview and news story here.