Category Archives: Washington

All Hands on Deck for the Day of Action for Initiative 1433! – Raise Up Washington

logo-v2Would you consider giving 2.5 hours to ensure that a million Washington workers get paid sick days in 2016?

On Saturday, June 4th, 250 volunteers will take to the streets and gather signatures for Initiative 1433’s Day of Action. Together we can gather 13,500 signatures in just one day and get I-1433 one giant step closer to our signature goal before the June 30 deadline!

Are you in?

Call the campaign headquarters today at (206) 709-1313 or visit this link to participate in this exciting Day of Action on June 4! The field staff will get you materials, tips, and a great location at a park, store or event near you.

We need you to be part of history: to raise Washington’s minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 and provide paid sick leave to workers statewide. With just six weeks to make the ballot, we need ALL hands on deck to gather the remaining signatures.

Join us!

Spring legislative update and action items!

Happy Spring Friends and Colleagues! Here’s a recap of the 2016 legislative session and tips on how YOU can help advance policy for Washington women and families in the coming months.

olympia springtimeLegislative Recap

The 60-day legislative session ended on March 10th. Despite early hopes, in the end, outcomes were disappointing. You can read more about how our three priorities (Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Equal Pay and Pregnancy Accommodations) fared in Olympia in the context of Women’s History Month in Marilyn’s blog

Take Action During The Election

elections_aheadIf you’re feeling as disappointed as we are with our progress so far this year — then get busy! It is election season after all, and you have the chance to make a difference in who will represent you in Olympia in 2017. The most important thing you can do: Ask your candidates where they stand!

This link leads you to questions you can ask at candidate forums, legislative meetings, community events and legislative district meetings. If you are pleased (or not pleased) with the response, post on our Facebook page, and let us know if candidates need follow-up information.

i1433The most exciting initiative of the season

Raise Up Washington is leading the effort on Initiative 1433, by far the most exciting state ballot initiative of the season. It will allow all workers in the state to earn paid sick leave, and increase the minimum wage in 4 steps to $13.50 by 2020!

The campaign is running a volunteer only (!) signature gathering effort to collect over 250,000 signatures by the beginning of summer. YOU can help! Use this linkto volunteer to gather signatures, or contact Samantha at Raise Up Washington: 206-709-1313 (office) or 206-595-4668 (mobile).

Washington legislators commemorate Women’s History Month…with dead gender equity bills

Can you name each of these female "firsts"?

Can you name each of these female “firsts”? Answers here. (Image and text courtesy of NARAL Pro-Choice America)

While women in other states can celebrate recent strides toward equality, here in Washington our state Legislature marked Women’s History Month by closing down its 2016 regular session on March 10 with bills attacking gender inequity…dead in their tracks.

Progress was within reach – even given the partisan divide between the House (Democrat) and Senate (Republican). After all, bills to strengthen equal pay protections and ensure pregnant women could ask for reasonable accommodations at work (like bathroom breaks and a stool to sit on) had passed with bipartisan support in other states. Surely similar bills would have a chance in Washington, in an election year no less!

At first, prospects looked promising. The Equal Pay and Opportunities Act passed Washington’s House 56 to 41, with six Republicans joining all the Democrats. It would have assured workers could discuss pay without retaliation and closed loopholes that allow some employers now to get away with discriminatory pay and hiring practices.

But when the bill moved to the Senate, Republican leadership kept the name and stripped out worker protections, replacing them with new protections for employers to impose wage secrecy. The amended bill, if passed, could score points with voters even as it limited worker rights for the benefit of corporate interests. Fortunately, the three Democrats on the Commerce and Labor Committee – Senators Hasegawa, Conway, and Keiser – refused to go along, and the bill died.

Versions of a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed both the Houseand Senate. But the Senate bill excluded all nonprofit employers – including big hospitals and other major organizations that employ large numbers of women, often in long, physically demanding shifts. When the House fixed that and other shortcomings, the Senate refused to concur, so that bill died, too.

Meanwhile, the FAMLI Act failed to even get a committee hearing. It would have created a system modeled after successful programs in other states to provide all workers with up to twelve weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, care of a seriously ill family member, or for the worker’s own serious health condition.

The Legislature did manage to send a bill to the Governor that will create a new rape kit tracking system – but only after removing the funding that would have actually allowed for testing those kits.

We could get discouraged – but let’s get busy instead.

When the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848, women didn’t have the right to vote, pursue diverse professions, control property or make decisions about their children’s welfare if married. They didn’t win those rights by politely asking for them or giving up after a few tries.

Women and male allies organized, marched, petitioned, practiced civil disobedience, and went on strike. They faced ridicule, arrest, and physical violence. In fact, Women’s History Month itself has itsroots in a 1908 strike by women garment workers in New York City, who demanded better working conditions, an end to child labor, and the right to vote.

When women won the vote in 1920, many believed full equality was close at hand. The first female Cabinet member, Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945, helped establish key policies that still provide a firm foundation for millions of working men and women today: the minimum wage, overtime, Unemployment Insurance, and Social Security.

During World War II, women joined the workforce in droves – and Washington state passed its first Equal Pay law. But during the 1950s and ‘60s, employers still openly practiced sexual and racial discrimination in hiring. Professional schools limited the number of women in each class. And schools rarely offered girls’ sports. The notion that women had innately different skills and abilities, and simply were not suited to male pursuits, seemed to prevail.

It took a whole new women’s movement, and another round of equal pay and equal opportunity legislation, to open career and educational choices that have brought us to today, where women earn the majority of college and graduate degrees and make up half the U.S. workforce.

Still, those gender and racial wage gaps persist. Workplace practices remain stacked against women, and too many of our state’s elected leaders are ignoring and discounting what it takes for workers to provide for their families, and keep themselves and their loved ones healthy.

To make things right, Washington’s women – and their male allies – will have to again stand up, make noise, and demand change.

So what are we waiting for?

Original: South Seattle Emerald »


  1. Althea Gibson became the first African-American and first female African-American tennis player to win a singles title in tennis at Wimbledon in 1957.
  2. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981. As a justice, O’Connor was as a key swing vote in many important cases, including upholding Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. She retired in 2006.
  3. Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to Congress in 1969.
  4. Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win a presidential primary contest in 2008.
  5. Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet in 1932.
  6. Tammy Baldwin became the first openly lesbian woman elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012.
  7. Sally Ride became the first American and LGBT woman to enter outer space in 1983.
  8. Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007.
  9. Ella Fitzgerald became the first African-American woman to win a Grammy award in 1959.
  10. Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to U.S. Congress in 1916.
  11. Mazie Hirono became the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012.
  12. Madam C.J. Walker became first African-American female self-made millionaire in the early 1900s.
  13. Wilma Mankiller became the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1985.
  14. Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State in 1997.

URGENT: Act now for a strong Pregnant Worker Fairness Act

Photo: Frank de Kleine/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Frank de Kleine/Flickr Creative Commons

One of every 10 babies born in Washington now are low birth weight or premature. State legislators are close to passing a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (ESSB 6149), which will help more babies arrive healthy and thriving by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant women.

Unfortunately, some special-interest groups are trying to weaken the bill by limiting those accommodations to a restrictive list, and exempting non-profit organizations (like many hospitals, other service providers, and well-heeled cultural institutions) where women make up a majority of employees.

Time is running out to get a strong bill passed before the end of the legislative session. Your legislators need to hear from you, and pronto!


Most women can work well into their pregnancies with only minor accommodations, such as temporary assignment to light duty, additional food or bathroom breaks, or the ability to carry a water bottle or sit while working.

But employers and employees need flexibility when determining what accommodations will work in a particular situation. And no woman should have to choose between keeping her job or keeping herself and her baby healthy.

Please urge your legislators to pass a strong bill that allows flexible accommodations and doesn’t exclude large numbers of working women.

Paid Parental Leave Should Be Extended To All

moms and kids

Image via New Zealand Education Union/Flickr Creative Commons

Amazon has joined the growing list of tech companies to expand paid parental leave policies. Earlier this year, Microsoft, Netflix, and Adobe also announced more time off for new mothers and fathers.

Between them, Microsoft and Amazon have over 60,000 employees in the Seattle area. The City of Seattle, King County, Port of Seattle, and Gates Foundation – which collectively employ about 30,000 people here – also added paid parental leave benefits for their workers this year.

That adds up to a lot of local families who will benefit – but represents only a tiny fraction of the over 1.3 million jobs in the county and the more than 25,000 babies born in King County each year.

We have mountains of research showing how important the first few months of life are for a child’s long-term health, brain development, and social skills. Quality time with parents is critical. That’s why almost every other country in the world guarantees all new mothers, and often fathers, lengthy periods of paid leave.

Promoting the well-being of children and gender equity are among the goals of local governments taking action, but the tech companies aren’t acting out of concern for infant brain development. They are in cut-throat competition for trained talent, and trying to counter well-earned reputations for lacking diversity, being hostile to women and unfriendly to families. Netflix’s much ballyhooed offer of up to a year of paid parental leave callously excludes the folks who mail out all those DVDs. Amazon’s new policy fortunately does extend to full-time distribution workers.

It’s good that some employers are stepping up on their own, since Washington’s legislature and Congress have so far failed to act to establish paid family and medical leave for all workers. But until we act collectively to ensure that all new parents and children have this important benefit, we will continue to exacerbate the racial, gender, and class inequities that plague our society.

According to the US Census, 20% of King County households have annual incomes over $150,000 – including many of the employees of those techie companies. About half of Seattle-area households have incomes at or above the $72,000 that it takes around here for a family of four to pay for housing, food, childcare, and transportation without relying on public assistance.

But that means half struggle to cover the basics. It’s not just high-wage, high-benefit jobs that are booming here. So are jobs in food service, personal care, retail, and other services where pay is low and shifts are irregular. These workers are often parents, too. Many also have elder care responsibilities, and they juggle it all without access to pricey time-saving conveniences.

Nearly one in four households in King County scrape by on less than $25,000 a year. One third of single moms – and their children – live below the official poverty level ($20,000 for a family of three). For our youngest kids, the disparities by race are especially stark: 45% of Black children and one-fourth of Latinos under age five live in poverty, compared to 6% of young White kids.

The thousands of small businesses out there will have a hard time providing much paid parental leave on their own, and many big corporations won’t unless they are required to.

Last January, Washington’s legislature introduced a bill that would provide all workers in the state – whatever their income level – with up to 12 weeks of family leave, and up to 12 weeks for their own disability. People would receive two-thirds of their usual weekly pay when caring for a new child, sick family member, or recovering from their own serious health condition. To finance the system, workers would contribute a small payroll premium, matched by their employer, of a little over a dollar a week for the state’s typical worker. This simple insurance model is already working in California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii.

The bill made it through the House Labor Committee, but was not prioritized for serious consideration by the full Legislature. Will the growing attention from high-profile announcements and the Presidential race be enough to give the bill some legs in 2016? Not unless legislators get a serious push from their constituents to take action.

Original: South Seattle Emerald »

Paid Family Leave Back on Drawing Board in Washington State

Paid family leave programs are linked to improved health outcomes for children and families. Credit: manuere/Morguefile

Paid family leave programs are linked to improved health outcomes for children and families. Credit: manuere/Morguefile

SEATTLE – The issue of paid family leave is coming into the forefront in Washington again.

The state is among eight recently selected for a federal grant to research the benefits of implementing a paid family and medical leave program. The $247,000 grant will allow Washington to put the paid leave program, adopted by the Legislature eight years ago, back on the drawing board.

Marilyn Watkins, policy director with the Economic Opportunity Institute, says a study will compare benefits vs. costs, and the impact on families and businesses.

“Another part of it will be to look at existing state programs and services and how a family and medical leave insurance program would interact with those and really allow them to work better,” says Watkins.

The Family Leave Insurance Act was approved in 2007 but tabled due to a lack of funding. Under federal and state law, workers are guaranteed up to 12 weeks of leave for pregnancy, newborn and medical care situations, but it is unpaid time.

Watkins says with paid family leave, the state can save on public assistance, child-care subsidies, and senior home care. And she adds research shows it boosts worker earnings, increases employee retention and improves health outcomes for children and families.

“We all understand how important it is that parents be able to stay home with their newborn children and really nurture and care for those new young lives, for mothers to recover their own health following childbirth and to really give the baby their best possible start in life,” says Watkins.

Funding the program will not be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, explains Watkins. She says
workers would contribute to a trust fund through a small payroll premium, and then draw from it when on family or medical leave.

“Employers are not having to foot the bill when people are out on extended leave and also the state isn’t footing the bill through other existing state revenues,” she says. “It’s a new source of revenue and makes it a completely self-funded program.”

California, Massachusetts and New Jersey are among states that have passed similar paid leave laws.

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – WA

Why Does Becoming a Mom Mean Potentially Losing Your Job?

Washington State’s Failure to Mandate Paid Parental Leave Hurts Gender Equity, Parents, and Kids

Photo: Frank de Kleine/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Frank de Kleine/Flickr Creative Commons

My best friend from graduate school and I will both become first-time mothers this year. As a citizen of Ireland, my friend will be able to stay home with her baby for almost a year and then return to her present career path. As an American state employee, I can either stay home with my child or maintain my current career trajectory—and I’m one of the lucky ones because I get to actually make a choice.

Irish law includes a “maternity benefit” that pays 80 percent of wages to new mothers during the first 26 weeks after birth, and can begin two weeks before birth if needed. An additional 16 weeks of unpaid leave is optional. In the United States, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires that employers grant only 12 weeks of leave to new mothers, and payment of wages during this time is decided state by state. Only California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island offer paid leave; Washington State passed a law in 2007 requiring paid leave for new parents, but it hasn’t gone into effect because it lacks funding.

If I don’t want to leave my baby at three months of age to go back to work, I will give up my job in—ironically—global health and look for work again once my child goes to school. And to my knowledge, none of the places where I currently freelance, including The Stranger, offer paid maternity leave or anything beyond the federally mandated 12 weeks of unpaid time off. In a part of the country where global-health work is incredibly competitive and underfunded, I’ll most likely be scraping the bottom of the barrel to get back into the workforce. But my Irish friend will be able to jump back into her field with the seniority and security she’s built up over the last 10 years since we graduated and parted ways.

Numerous studies prove that women who receive paid maternity leave are more likely to return to their jobs, thereby remaining contributing, upwardly mobile members of the workforce, so why is the United States the sole industrialized country in the world that doesn’t mandate some amount of paid leave?

Full Story: The Stranger »