Minimum wage, paid sick days bills pass Washington State House!

Original photo: Rachel Samanyi

Original photo: Rachel Samanyi

Two key measures to boost Washington’s economy and protect the economic security of millions of working families in Washington have passed the state House:

  • State Minimum Wage Increase (HB 1355): Sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle); increases Washington’s minimum wage to $12 over four years.
  • Paid Sick and Safe Leave (HB 1356): Sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma); allows all workers in Washington to earn paid sick and safe leave to care for the health and safety needs of themselves and their families.

Members of the Washington Work and Family Coalition, which advocated strongly for both measures, issued the following statements:

“Together these two bills strengthen families and ensure that jobs boost rather than bust our state economy. These bills will improve public health and make family incomes more secure – especially for working women. That means children will do better in school, local businesses will benefit, and state revenues will increase,” said Marilyn P. Watkins, Ph.D., Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute.

“We are one step closer to better economic security for women and families! This is an important victory, especially for women and people of color who are over-represented in low-wage industries and disproportionality impacted by the lack of paid sick days. We are excited for those we serve and our whole community,” said Liz Mills, Advocacy and Policy Director at the YWCA of Seattle and King and Snohomish Counties.

“We are thrilled the House of Representatives passed the Paid Sick and Safe Days law,” said Grace Huang, Public Policy Coordinator for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Allowing domestic violence survivors to take time off of work to deal with the consequences of violence – without the fear of losing wages – leads to safer and healthier communities.”

Congresswomen Murray and DelBene champion the Healthy Families Act

Congresswomen Murray and DelBene introducing the Healthy Families Act in Seattle

Congresswomen Murray and DelBene introducing the Healthy Families Act in Seattle

The Washington Work and Family Coalition would like to offer big thanks to Senator Patty Murray and Representative Suzan DelBene for their courageous championing of the Healthy Families Act. Last Friday February 20th, Congresswomen Murray and DelBene hosted a press conference at Seattle’s Paramount Theater to introduce the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would allow workers with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year.

Here in Washington, 1 million workers still lack access to a single paid sick day and that, Murray and DelBene say, is unacceptable. “Workers should not be forced to choose between caring for their health and keeping their paychecks,” says DelBene. Senator Murray, who has cosponsored the bill every year since 2004 says, “no one should ever have to choose between their health, or a loved one’s health, and their economic security. Our outdated policies are forcing too many workers to make that kind of choice – that needs to change.”

If passed, the Healthy Families Act would:

  • Allow workers at businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year;
  • Guarantee workers at businesses with fewer than 15 employees up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days per year;
  • Allow workers to use their sick days to care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or other individual related by blood or affinity; and
  • Provide funding for outreach and education around the worker rights guaranteed in the law.

Workers around the country are leading the movement to demand paid sick days – and the Healthy Families Act comes in response to this growing national trend. Three states and 17 cities, including Seattle and Tacoma in Washington have passed paid sick days bills.

President Obama called for paid sick days in his State of the Union Address this past January. “Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.”

Thank you, Congresswomen Murray and DelBene, for your strong leadership and your commitment to supporting workers!

“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:

kristin-rowe-finkbeiner-testimony-hb-1355-1356-thumb

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.

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!

Tacoma PSD Final Vote - horizontal

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!

You shouldn’t lose your job for being sick or for caring for your kids: Lateasha’s story

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 9.49.19 PMWashington workers deserve paid sick leave. All too often, workers are forced to choose between their families and their jobs, which can result in a disastrous string of events. Paid sick days allow workers to stay home when they fall ill and to care for a sick child when they need it  most. Guaranteeing paid sick time means workers can stay home without losing wages -preventing hard working families from falling into poverty. Lateasha, a single mom here in Washington, shares her story about how paid sick leave could have made all the difference. 

I lost my job because I had to take time off for sickness. I hope that sharing my story will help people understand how important it is for working parents like me to have paid sick leave.

I’m a single mom to three wonderful children. We became homeless and moved into YWCA Family Village in Redmond, Washington on July 1, 2013. On November first, I found seasonal work for the holidays at a local department store. I stocked shelves after hours and did some customer service. I liked the job and it was really close to my apartment here.

I did a good job and was asked to stay on the job after the holidays which was great. I was promoted from seasonal to part-time. I didn’t miss any days of work.

In late January, I got a terrible pain in my tooth and could not work. I always called in and spoke with my supervisor. I missed three days. When I returned to work, my supervisor started cutting my shifts so I got less hours and less pay. She also assigned me to some different projects. I felt like I was in trouble because I missed work, but no one said anything about my job being in jeopardy.

My tooth got worse. My face got swollen from an infection and I had to see a dentist. The dental care helped and I began to feel better.

Then, my youngest child got head lice and MRSA which are both very contagious. He was not allowed to go to childcare – which I understand – but I’m a single parent. Luckily, my brother was able to babysit so I didn’t miss too many days – only four.

But, when I did call in sick on May 6th, I was fired. I was told that I missed too many days in a calendar year and I was no longer employed there. Altogether, I missed 7 days between November 1st and May 6th.

I just got a better job doing some warehouse work which I like. I hope that it will become a permanent, full-time job that includes paid leave.

What happened to me happens to lots of people. We should find a way for part-time workers to have some paid sick leave. You shouldn’t lose your job for being sick or for caring for your kids.

Editor’s note: We want to hear from you! If you have a story about how you have been affected by a lack of paid sick time or family leave, please contact Gabriela@eoionline.org. Your stories can help legislators understand the importance of paid sick days and family leave.