Behind the Polls: Why Voters Want Time to Care

Hila Ritter and her husband in Portland, OR, both work-full time. Yet neither job includes any paid leave. So Hila worked while ill during her pregnancy to hold on to her sick days and saved up her vacation days. Still, most of her maternity leave came without pay. For this couple, the joy of a new baby was coupled with depleted savings, debt, and the need to apply for food stamps.

What about those with no paid leave and no savings? Chantia Lewis and her husband and baby in Milwaukee had to move in with her parents. Shelby Ramirez in Denver, who needed a few weeks to care for her daughter and her father after surgeries, received eviction notices and had to pawn the only thing of value she owned. Elizabeth Fredette in Massachusetts worked 12-hour days in her last month of pregnancy instead of the bed rest her doctor ordered, and was back at work within four weeks of giving birth.

These women are advocates of paid family leave—and they’re not alone. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in 15 key electoral states found strong support for policies like paid sick days and paid family leave—and a clear connection between that support and the hardship families experience when those policies are not in place. Like Hila, Chantia, Shelby, and Elizabeth, nearly 60 percent of those polled said they would face significant economic hardship if they had to take time without pay to care for a newborn or a seriously ill loved one or to deal with their own major illness.

The only federal law in the U.S. regarding family leave is the 23-year-old Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It allows for 12 weeks of *unpaid* leave to care for a new child or recover from serious illness and guarantees a person can return their job. But it applies only to businesses with 50+ employees, and to be eligible, workers need a year with a company and 25 hours/week of work. That leaves out 40% of the workforce! Millions of people have to skip treatments or return to their jobs too soon.

Read more: Behind the Polls: Why Voters Want Time To Care »

It doesn’t have to be this way! Join the Washington Work and Family Coalition as we work to pass Paid Family and Medical Leave for Washington in 2017:

Now Hiring: Communications Manager, Paid Family and Medical Leave Campaign

Communications Manager, Paid Family and Medical Leave Campaign

Reports to: Policy Director

Location: Seattle, Washington; Olympia, Washington

General Description

The Economic Opportunity Institute is seeking a temporary communications manager to plan and oversee all aspects of communications for the Washington Work and Family Coalition’s upcoming legislative campaign to pass Paid Family and Medical Leave in Washington.

The person in this position will work closely with EOI Policy Director and Washington Work and Family Coalition Organizer to provide strategic and day-to-day communications support for Washington Work and Family Coalition – specifically the effort to pass and fund a Paid Family and Medical Leave program during the 2017 legislative session.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Assisting with message development.
  • Utilizing creative outreach to build coalition email/membership lists.
  • Conducting online mobilization efforts via social media and email.
  • Managing content for an existing blog/website (using
  • Leading media outreach and responding to media inquiries.
  • Editing and producing printed materials (fact sheets, reports, briefs).
  • Preparing, and briefing coalition members on, talking points before and during campaign effort.

The ideal candidate will have: experience suitable for/applicable to the job description above; personal transportation and availability for occasional travel to Olympia before and during the legislative session; and capacity to work part-time in a dedicated workspace at the offices of the Economic Opportunity Institute (located in downtown Seattle).


Start date is ASAP, working through anticipated end of 2017 legislative session (likely spring, possibly early summer 2017).


This is a contract position. Hours and pay are negotiable.

To Apply

Send a cover letter and resume as a single PDF document detailing your interest in and qualifications for the position to, Attn: Marilyn Watkins. Applicants wishing to submit additional materials should incorporate them into the same PDF document with their cover letter and resume.

On Your Mark, Give Birth, Go Back To Work

Tricia Olson takes a selfie of herself and her son Augustus, or Gus, who sits in his car seat. Olson took three weeks of unpaid leave from her job at a towing company in Rock Springs, Wyo., after giving birth. Courtesy of Tricia Olson

Tricia Olson takes a selfie of herself and her son Augustus, or Gus, who sits in his car seat. Olson took three weeks of unpaid leave from her job at a towing company in Rock Springs, Wyo., after giving birth. (Courtesy of Tricia Olson)

On her first day back at work after giving birth, Tricia Olson drank copious amounts of coffee, stuffed tissues in her pocket, and tried not to cry. After all, her son Gus was just 3 weeks old.

Olson, 32, works for a small towing company and U-Haul franchise in Rock Springs, Wyo., and she could not afford to be away from work any longer.

“The house bill’s not going to pay itself,” she says, her voice breaking in an audio diary she kept as part of a series on the challenges facing working parents airing on NPR’sAll Things Considered.

Olson is one of just four employees she says are “like family,” and like many U.S. workers, she has no paid leave at all: not for vacation, not if she gets sick, and certainly not for parental leave.

Normally, she’s the only one in the office to take calls. Her boss agreed to fill in for her for three weeks after the delivery, but she says “even just that … makes me feel guilty.”

Olson is hardly alone in returning to work so early. But this is a uniquely American problem.

Ed. Note: It doesn’t have to be this way! The Washington Work and Family Coalition is working with champions in the legislature to craft a paid family and medical proposal for our state that we hope to pass in 2017. Join the cause here:


Study: ‘B-minus’ for WA workplace laws concerning expectant and new parents

Photo credit: Diana Nguyen/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Diana Nguyen/Flickr Creative Commons

SEATTLE — The Evergreen State has room for improvement when it comes to protecting working families, according to a new report. The National Partnership for Women and Families gave Washington a “B-minus” grade in a recent study assessing states’ workplace policies to protect expectant and new parents – including paid family leave and workplace accommodations for pregnant women.

According to Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute and head of the Washington Work and Family Coalition, there’s one bright spot for Washington parents who need time off to care for their children.

“Over a decade ago now,” Watkins said, “Washington passed a law that says that if you do have paid leave – paid sick leave or some other kind of paid time off – you can use that leave not only if you’re sick yourself, but also if you have a sick child, spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent.”

Only California received an ‘A’ grade in the report. Both New Jersey and the District of Columbia received an ‘A-minus.’

A pregnant woman in Washington can also take as much time off as necessary without having to worry about losing her job, Watkins said. But she won’t necessarily be paid for that time.

Sarah Fleisch Fink, director of policy and senior counsel with the National Partnership for Women and Families, said that while Washington has taken steps in the right direction, workers in low-wage jobs are disproportionately affected by inadequate workplace protections.

“For workers in low-wage jobs, they are even less likely to have access to paid leave, they are even less likely to have access to paid sick days and to other protections,” she said. “And in many cases, they are even more in need.”

A state ballot initiative this year could help alleviate some of the financial stress for expectant and new parents, Watkins said. Initiative 1433 would raise the minimum wage statewide to $13.50 an hour by 2020, and also provide workers with paid sick leave. According to Watkins, more than a million workers in Washington currently don’t have a single day of paid sick leave.

“So, they are going to hugely benefit from having access to paid sick leave for the first time; so will their kids, so will the elders in their family,” Watkins said. “We’re all going to be healthier when workers aren’t forced to make the choice between going to work sick or putting groceries on the family’s table that week.”

Via Public News Service »

The world is getting better at paid maternity leave. The U.S. is not.


When news broke that Ivanka Trump’s clothing line doesn’t offer workers paid maternity leave, some were surprised. After all, the Republican presidential nominee’s daughter has said she champions the rights of working mothers. “Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties,” she said on the last day of the Republican National Convention in July. “They should be the norm.”

The truth is, however, that in the United States bearing a child comes at a high price for many women. Despite having one of the world’s most advanced economies, the United States lags far behind other countries in its policies for expectant mothers. In addition to being the only highly competitive country where mothers are not guaranteed paid leave, it sits in stark contrast to countries such as Cuba and Mongolia that offer expectant mothers one year or more of paid leave.

Countries finance paid-maternal-leave policies in a variety of ways. Some require that the employer finance the leave; in others, the money comes from public funds. For low-income residents or those who work in the informal sector, an increasing number of governments are providing maternity cash benefits, according to the International Labor Organization, a U.N.-affiliated agency.

The graphic above highlights just how poorly the U.S. compares with the rest of the world. It shows that this is the only advanced economy that does not mandate paid leave for mothers at the federal level.

Full story: Washington Post



Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality

The central conflict of domestic life right now isn’t men versus women or mothers versus fathers; it’s the family against money.

The solution to the work-life conundrum is not “enlisting men” in the domestic sphere. The solution is establishing social supports that allow families to function. The fact is, men can’t have it all, for the same reason women can’t: whether or not the load is being shared 50-50 doesn’t matter if the load is still unbearable. It will not become bearable once women lean in, or once the consciousness is raised, or once men are full partners, always, in domestic life. It will become bearable when decidedly more quotidian things become commonplace—like paid parental leave and affordable, quality day care.

Full Story: The Atlantic »