Will Washington workers be next in the push for paid parental leave?

Smiling Mother Playing With Baby Son At Home

When Beth* had her first two children, her employer’s paid family leave policy covered her family’s expenses while she took time off to recover and bond with her infants. Not having to worry about a gap in income meant she could focus on her maternity leave. But when she gave birth to her third child, Beth was working for a different company that did not offer a paid family leave policy. Still, she and her husband felt they could manage some debt in order to take unpaid time off.

Then, Beth was diagnosed with cancer just days before her baby’s first birthday. During the following year of cancer treatments, the family’s expenses piled up, along with their debt, as Beth took more unpaid time away from work.

Beth says that having a paid leave policy, either for maternity leave or to cover her cancer-related leave, would have better situated her and her family for her health crisis. “We’re still digging out of debt,” says Beth, who is now cancer-free.

For many employees, starting a family impacts the trajectory of their career and their family’s economic story in ways both foreseen and unanticipated. The way that an employee eases (or staggers) into parenthood creates ripple effects that can be felt for years, even decades, by families, workplaces, entire industries and our society. Research shows that parents who receive paid leave from work to recover from childbirth and raise their babies reap long-term benefits: When new moms are afforded paid maternity leave, they have fewer health complications and are more likely to be working and earning more money one year after the birth of their child, which leads to better economic, academic and social outcomes for children later on. It’s also been found that babies receive better preventive care when moms are given paid leave. When fathers have access to paid leave, they are more likely to take leave and are more involved in the direct care of their children. Paid leave actually improves businesses’ bottom lines, reduces stress among employees and improves morale among the employees who take leave and their coworkers.

“Paid family leave is the No. 1 policy that improves health and economic outcomes for all people. Even though we live in the world’s richest country, the wealthiest people here are dying earlier than in other countries. Our infant mortality ranks 37th worldwide,” says Teresa Mosqueda, political and strategic campaign director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “All of society benefits from paid family leave, not just the people who are taking the leave.”

Yet despite these known benefits, the United States is one of only two countries with no national paid maternity leave for mothers (96 countries also offer paid paternity leave). The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ensures unpaid family leave for eligible employees, but this guarantee is available to fewer than 50 percent of workers. And it’s unpaid. What does this mean on the ground? One-quarter of working mothers will have to return to work within two weeks of bringing a new child home. One-quarter of all poverty spells in our country stem from the act of having a baby.

While efforts to establish a national paid parental leave law have so far failed, progress is happening in both the private sector and at the state legislative level. Hear this, Washington state parents: Our turn could be right around the corner. Advocates say this state is closer than ever to passing a program that would, quite literally, change the way workers from Seattle to Spokane, from Kirkland to Kennewick, become parents and navigate both family life and work life after that milestone. Like the handful of states that have led the charge launching paid family leave, Washington state is on the cusp of something big.

So what does this possible change — a major upgrade to our lives that would affect attorneys, kindergarten teachers and grocery clerks alike — need to move from imagination to implementation? You.

Full Story: ParentMap »

Brilliant ‘wage gap’ alarm clock rings after 79% of the work day so women can go home

“Equal Pay Day” is a national holiday observed on April 12 that calls for awareness of the wage gap between male and female employees. But we shouldn’t just focus on equal pay on one designated day, especially since men and women aren’t paid equally for equal work.

So in an effort to keep this issue in the forefront of everyone’s minds, MTV’s Look Different campaign partnered with PARTY NY for the 79% Work Clock, a project that shines a light on how gender impacts pay.

Women who work full time are, on average, paid 79% of their male coworker’s salaries. So, the clock sounds an alarm 79% of the way through the work day to remind us all that after a certain time of the day, women aren’t paid for the work they’re doing.

Full story: Revelist »

This Is What Parental Leave Really Looks Like In America

shuller family photoAmerica is facing a national crisis. It is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t offer paid time off to new parents — and moms and dads are struggling.

The current national policy, the Family and Medical Leave Act, only offers parents 12 weeks of leave — but that’s unpaid, if the parents are even eligible. A handful of states have tried to compensate with their own paid leave laws, but with only four states nationwide that offer them so far, they’re the exception, not the rule.

As a result, families are at the behest of their workplace to determine how much time off they’ll get with their new baby, if any, before they have to go back to work. In a system that depends on employer generosity, the results leave much to be desired: Only 12 percent of private-sector workers have paid family leave.

When parents don’t have paid family leave, the outcomes are devastating: 1 in 4 working moms return to work less than two weeks after giving birth. They suffer higher rates of depression and stress, and their babies experience more health risks as they are breastfed less and brought to fewer medical appointments.

Families as a whole suffer without paid leave, as parents are forced to take unpaid time off to be with their new child, causing some families to fall into poverty.

The Huffington Post spoke to eight families across the country to see how they brought their babies into the world without assured paid time off. These are their stories »

Being a Woman Will Cost You $430,480 Over Your Working Lifetime

What’s the individual damage from gender inequality in the workplace? For the average U.S. woman it’s more than $430,000 over the course of her career, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, a non-profit advocacy group.

cost of being a woman

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The gender pay-gap issue has come to the fore following criticism from President Barack Obama that women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and demands by actresses including Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and top women’s soccer players for equal wages to their male counterparts. Some states have intervened: California lawmakers last year approved legislation mandating that women and men earn the same amount for similar work.

“We’re in a moment where women are making up an increasing part of the workforce and there’s a firm recognition that their salaries matter to themselves, but also to their families’ economic security,” Fatima Goss Graves, a senior vice president at NWLC, said by phone. “We’ve seen very prominent figures call attention to the wage gap and that’s so critical because it highlights no industry is immune to it.”

For the working women in America, race is also a factor in pay disparity, and to a lesser extent where they live. The gap is widest for African-American and Latino women in the nation’s capital, Washington, where the gap is $1.6 million to $1.8 million over a four-decade career, compared with a white, non-Hispanic male wage-earner.

Full story: Bloomberg »

In a Historic Move, L.A. City Council Votes in Paid Sick Days Expansion

BREAKING NEWS: The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ensure LA workers not only have 6 paid sick days — but also (this part is great!) the right to use that paid sick time to care for family *whether related by blood or affinity*. This is the very first law to use this “gold standard” for a broad and inclusive definition of family. Congratulations LA and especially to all the people and organizations who have worked so hard for this win!

Read more »

Ruchika Tulshyan thinks it’s time to turn the tables

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Author Ruchika Tulshyan [Photo by Jama Abdiraman, via EqualiSea]

[via EqualiSea] I’ll admit it. I’ve gone to more than one “how to negotiate” workshop.

I can do power poses like no one’s business. Strong eye contact, shoulders back, spine straight. But also making sure to sit at a slight angle so I don’t look “too aggressive.” Staring at myself awkwardly in the mirror, I’ve practiced comebacks for common arguments to why I should be paid less. And I’ve even used cute phrases like “wiggle room” to soften the blow of –-gasp—a woman asking to be paid more!

But the truth is, I can do power poses for the rest of my life and I still won’t be paid the same as my male counterparts. Because individuals can only get so far within a system that’s constantly pushing back on them.

As Ruchika Tulshyan writes in her new book, The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace, “too much of the existing narrative focuses on ‘fixing women’—getting more women to negotiate, assert, demand, be confident and ‘lean in’ to leadership.”

Instead, if we take a closer look, we see that gender inequality is something that we unintentionally built right into the structures of our businesses. With the example of negotiation, we know that we have social stigma against women asking for more money. But we keep salaries secret, we keep requiring employees to negotiate, and we keep penalizing women for it.

Perhaps we’re ready turn the tables, to evolve our workplaces so that they work for women, as well as men. Because our old systems were designed for a different time, and a different workforce. And frankly, we’ve outgrown them.

That doesn’t mean that we have to demolish our way of doing business altogether—but we do need to be open to a steady stream of renovations.

The good news? These investments will also benefit the business.

Full story at EqualiSea »

Unequal pay’s lasting legacy: Lost income from your 1st day at work until the day you die

Equal Pay Social Security

It’s certainly not news that American women continue to earn less than men for the same work, typically 79 cents on the dollar. But what’s less understood is the devastating impact those lost wages have over time. In fact, over a working woman’s career, that pay gap could accumulate to a half million dollars in lost income and even more for women of color. A comprehensive analysis of gender pay inequality, released by the Joint Economic Committee’s Democratic staff, shows how the gender pay gap grows over time. It’s not just an issue for working women because this inequality can also have a compounding and devastating impact on retired women.

Yesterday was ‪#‎EqualPay‬ Day. Today, millions of women went to work and were paid less for it than their male counterparts. At the current rate of change, it will take 40 years to close the gender pay gap. That’s simply not an option for generations of American women who will continue to face the consequences of income inequality from their very first day on the job until they die. Here are four steps Congress can take to make a difference now.

Read more: Huffington Post »