After two special legislative sessions this year, it’s safe to say that many of us are glad it’s finally over! The actions of the legislature were driven by the need to pass the state’s operating budget and sharp political divisions between the House and Senate, thus making it hard to move forward new policies to benefit Washington families. Still, the Washington Work and Family Coalition did succeed in establishing family and medical leave insurance and statewide paid sick days standards as high priority policies for the legislature to address next year. We were also victorious in fighting back efforts to roll back paid leave protections for Washington families.
We successfully blocked efforts by Senate conservatives to repeal the 2007 family leave program. This program has been postponed for the past 2 -budget cycles due to legislator’s lack of courage to fund it. Given the current budget fiasco, we knew it would be a challenge to even keep the program on the books. But by working with Rep. Green and Sen. Keiser to introduce HB 1457 and SB 5292, we showed policymakers a solid plan to fund and expand the program, and compelling testimony at hearings and communications from constituents convinced many legislators that our state’s families and economy will be stronger with family leave in place. In the end, the legislature did pass HB 2044 which removes the 2015 implementation date of the family leave insurance program.
We also blocked two pieces of absurd legislation that moved in the Senate which would have prevented or limited laws by local cities guaranteeing workers the right to earn paid sick days, like the one passed by the city of Seattle. HB 1313 and SB 5594 offered a different vision that would ensure Washington families can seek medical treatment and stop the spread of illness by not going to work when sick—a simple and effective public health practice that also helps rebuild family economic security.
The Washington Work and Family Coalition has laid the groundwork to pass family and medical leave insurance and paid sick days in the very near future – so stay tuned.