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!

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. 

Will the Tacoma City Council pass the weakest paid sick days law in the nation?

Man-sick-in-bed-eating-so-006No one should be forced to go to work sick. No one should be forced to stay at work when they have a sick child waiting miserably at school.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland unveiled a paid sick and safe leave proposal to City Council last Tuesday. She pushed back against dissenters on the Council who wanted to delay, saying she didn’t need a formal study to know that her constituents needed paid sick leave.

That’s great news for the 40,000 or so workers in Tacoma who don’t get a single paid sick day now, and the many more who face penalties for using the leave they’ve earned. If Tacoma adopts a paid sick leave standard, it will join a rapidly growing list of nearly 20 cities across the U.S.

Unfortunately, if Tacoma’s City Council sticks with Strickland’s initial proposal, thousands of workers will still be forced to go to work sick, and it would be the most watered-down municipal sick leave law in the country.

The Mayor’s plan would allow workers to use only three days of paid sick leave per year. That means working moms could not use their precious hours when they had the flu themselves. They’d have to save their leave for the inevitable times when their child came down with a fever. Kids from lower income families – already facing a host of challenges in achieving their full potential – would continue to suffer the most.

In 2013, 64% of Tacoma school kids qualified for free or reduced price lunch. According to national studies, the working parents of two thirds of those kids probably have no paid sick leave now. With only 3 days of sick leave, those working parents would continue to have to make tough choices, and their children would continue paying the price. Send a sick child to school or be short on rent? Stay home with a contagious virus or buy groceries?

The Mayor justifies a 3-day limit by claiming that’s the average used by workers in San Francisco, where a sick leave law has been in place since 2007. But that average includes workers who take no sick leave some years, and a week or more in others. The flu is contagious for seven days or more, according to the CDC. So is Norovirus, which most of us know as stomach flu, and is frequently spread by sick restaurant workers.

Under Strickland’s plan, workers on the front lines of public health in hospitals, groceries, and restaurants would also be forced to continue coming in sick, or lose family income and very possibly their jobs.

The Mayor’s draft bill would allow hospitals to continue the practice of assigning punitive attendance points for every day missed, regardless of cause or the number of sick days the employee had earned. So a nurse who stays home with the flu until she is no longer likely to infect vulnerable patients could find herself fired.

The draft bill also fails to immediately cover workers who have union contracts, including many nurses and grocery workers, who now have to be out two days without pay before their sick leave kicks in. And it allows restaurant owners to take away sick time employees earn without paying them, if the worker swaps a shift.

To actually protect public health and family economic security, Tacoma needs a stronger law. Workers should be able to earn and use up to seven days of sick leave each year, and carry forward unused leave so they don’t have to start over accruing each January just as flu season is peaking. All workers need protections, including those who work in restaurants, with union contracts, or for employers who punish workers for staying home when sick.

Mayor Strickland is right. Her constituents need a sick leave law – but not the weakest one in the nation. The cities that already have laws find their businesses are continuing to prosper, since there’s less spread of disease and higher productivity in the workplace, and customers have a little more cash in their pockets.

The Healthy Tacoma coalition is leading the charge for a law strong enough to protect family and public health. Find out how to weigh in yourself at Healthy Tacoma or on Facebook.

Via the Economic Opportunity Institute

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


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

Working Families Summit: For Many Small Businesses Offering Paid Maternity Leave Is Out Of Reach

mom and babyJulie Norris became a “proud single mother” in 2009, in a U.S. economic downturn that forced her to choose between having a home and keeping her 3-year-old business alive. The co-founder of Dandelion Communitea Café in Orlando, Florida, found a way to keep her company going by spending a few of those lean months sleeping on friends’ couches with her newborn daughter.

Today, Norris is back in her own home. Her health-conscious restaurant employs 29 people and generates about a million dollars a year in gross receipts, she says. When two of her workers recently gave birth, Norris made arrangements to enable them to care for their babies at work. What she couldn’t afford was to pay them off the clock.

“I wanted to offer paid leave,” she told International Business Times by phone, but said that would be a financially crippling proposition. The 35-year-old café owner says there need to be national policies to make it feasible for businesses like hers to be as family-friendly as they would like to be. “That would help change the cultural attitude toward workers,” she said.

A daylong Working Families Summit on Monday in Washington attempted to shift this cultural attitude. Joined by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, President Barack Obama used the day to propose a raft of measures aimed at easing the demands of work and family life.

“They’re basically using the summit as a bully pulpit to try to extend these rights to all employees,” Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, a nonprofit calling for more family-friendly work policies, told IBTimes.

The president used his executive power to instruct federal agencies on Monday to implement more flexible workplace schedules and called on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require businesses to make reasonable accommodations for expecting moms and prohibit employers from forcing them to take unpaid leave.

“We’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t have it [paid maternity leave],” the president said Monday morning on CNN’s “New Day” “It doesn’t make any sense. There are a lot of countries that are a lot poorer than we are that also have it.”

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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks the United States last for workplace maternity benefits (pdf) compared to other developed nations like Germany, Canada, the UK or The Netherlands. U.S. labor law is more lenient on employers than labor laws in other countries.

The federal government doesn’t require private companies to offer either paid or unpaid maternity leave, and smaller businesses can legally fire anyone who needs extended leaves of absence to deal with childbirth or family health crises.

“FMLA [the Family and Medical Leave Act] is only available to workers when companies have 50 or more employees, so about 40 percent of employers don’t need to comply,” said Bravo. “This is a big problem. It’s great to have FMLA, but if you can’t afford to take time off, or you work for a small company, then it doesn’t help.”

A study released this month by the National Partnership for Women & Families (pdf) found that states have done little to implement paid and unpaid family or medical leave in the absence of strong federal protections.

Norris says she supports efforts announced Monday by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to study the feasibility of a federal paid-leave policy that would cover the private sector – a measure that would face immense resistance from business groups and the congressional lawmakers that act in their interests. But the small-business owner says she’s hopeful that the cultural tide is changing.

“For women – and men, too – the maternity period is so critical to that future citizen,” Norris said. “And now there are more women entering the workforce than ever before. Employers are increasingly having to respond to their expectations, especially from younger women, and I hope that that encourages Congress to act.”

Obama, free of seeking re-election, is using his second term to take executive action to promote increasing the federal minimum wage, to extend same-sex marriage rights and, in this case, call for federal agencies to adopt more flexible schedules for family-related leave. But the president’s power goes only so far, and with Congress divided on the federal government’s role in social policies that affect private employers, passing any legislation that increases the costs of doing business, or adds another entitlement program, is unlikely to happen anytime soon.