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!

A big vote on paid sick days, minimum wage coming up for Washington’s working families

olympia springtimeThis past week, I heard Lilia, a working mom, testify to legislators in Olympia that even with two jobs, she has to remind her teenage sons to limit themselves to one glass of milk — because she can’t afford to buy more.

Another mother, Bianca, testified her job did not provide sick leave. She ended up quitting after her son became seriously ill.

That’s simply unacceptable. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

As early as next week, your legislator will cast their vote on two bills that will boost our state’s economy by protecting the economic security and improving the health of thousands of Washington families:

It’s common sense: our economy is stronger when our families are more secure. A higher minimum wage means fewer kids going hungry or staying home alone sick, and more women able to save for their family and future. Ensuring everyone has access to paid sick days means people can care for themselves or a loved one, without fear of losing wages.

Please take a minute today to ensure families like Bianca’s and Lilia’s don’t fall through the cracks any more. Urge your state representative to pass a $12 minimum wage and paid sick days for Washington!

Together, we can create change for working families. Thank you!

~Marilyn, Gabriela and the entire team at the Washington Work and Family Coalition

“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.

“Unequal pay isn’t rare – it’s common and prevalent in all job sectors” [VIDEO]

Sandy Restrepo, a local attorney, testifies to the Washington State House Labor Committee in favor of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), February 2, 2015:

Click to watch testimony (opens in TVW window)

Click to watch video (opens to TVW website)

Hello my name is Sandy Restrepo and I’m here today to testify in support of HB 1646, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act.

As a mother, Latina and now lawyer, I have endured many hardships. As mentioned earlier, typically as a Latina I make 67 cents to every dollar a white man makes. I’m the first in my family to graduate college and first to pursue graduate degree. Throughout my studies, I have supported myself with low-paying jobs.

Between undergrad and law school, I accepted a position at a prestigious non-profit. Months into my new job, I learned that an equally qualified man was offered 20 percent more in salary than I was offered. I expected an organization that stood for justice would treat me fairly but unfortunately that was not the case. Unequal pay isn’t rare, it’s common and prevalent in all job sectors.

As an immigration attorney, I see all too often my clients earn significantly less because they are immigrants, women and/or don’t know their rights.

That’s why we need this legislation: to make sure this systemic injustice is eradicated.

“Family leave should never be a matter of luck.” [VIDEO]

Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director for the Economic Opportunity Institute, makes the case for family and medical leave insurance (House Bill 1273) to Washington state legislators (Jan. 29, 2015):

MW-testimony-HB-1273-screen

Click to watch video (opens to TVW website)

Full testimony:

“Good morning. I’m Marilyn Watkins of the Economic Opportunity Institute.

It should never be a matter of luck whether a parent can afford to spend the first precious weeks and months of life with their newborn child.

It shouldn’t be a matter of luck whether someone can recover from surgery before dragging themselves back to work.

My mother died this past summer, one of Rep. Moeller’s constituents. She’d lived with breast cancer for 8 years, staying active and independent, then declined rapidly in her last month. My sister and I were fortunate to be able to take off work and nurse her at home. Our other 3 siblings were able to fly out for only a few days to see her one last time. If we hadn’t been there, mom would have had to spend her last weeks in a nursing facility. My father never could have done it on his own.

Caring for a dying parent shouldn’t be a matter of luck. Yet most workers only get a few days or weeks at most of paid leave.

5 states have provided disability and maternity leave insurance for all workers in their states for decades, and 3 of those states now have other forms of family leave as well.

Studies show these programs work:

  • Women in these 5 states are twice as likely to have paid leave after having a baby than women in other states, and they take longer leaves. Among women below 200% of the poverty level, use of paid leave tripled  in states with disability or family leave insurance.
  • New moms in these 5 states had fewer health complications and were more likely to return to work in the year following a birth and to have higher wages over time.
  • New fathers also take longer leaves – and that early bonding keeps them more involved in their children’s lives long term.
  • Researchers at the University of Washington estimate that the number of mothers and infants receiving TANF in Washington would decrease more than 13% with paid family and medical leave insurance.

With family and medical leave insurance, the state will save with elder care as well.

There’s nothing more important to our future than our children.  And building the health and economic security of our families will boost our whole state economy.

Please pass HB 1273. Thank you.”

Download/read Marilyn’s testimony here [PDF]