This is the Washington Work and Family Coalition’s test blog post.
Presentation by Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director, Economic Opportunity Institute to the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County.
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!
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.
More than 30 cities and states have paid sick days, including Tacoma. It’s time to celebrate – and keep the momentum going! Join us to enjoy cake, share success stories and learn about the statewide effort for paid sick days and minimum wage increase.
Thursday, May 19
1 PM – 2:30 PM
Tacoma Public Library, Moore Branch
215 S 56th St, Tacoma, Washington 98408
Free: RSVP Here »
Establishing universal paid family and medical leave in the United States is critical to restoring economic security for working families and overcoming the entrenched inequities of race, gender, and class that undermine our economy and squash opportunity for far too many.
Scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms the importance of paid parental leave to the health and well-being of young children. With our population aging, more workers have responsibilities for caring for older family members and are themselves more at risk of serious illness or injury that may also require a lengthy time away from work.
Currently in the United States, the highest income employees often have generous employer-provided paid leave benefits that allow them to nurture a new child, care for a parent with a health crisis, and fully recover from their own serious health conditions. Middle and lower income workers, on the other hand, have limited or no access to paid leave, forcing them to choose between their family’s health or economic security.
As of 2014, the United States and Papua New Guinea were the only two out of 185 countries and territories in the world that did not guarantee paid maternity leave. Most developed economies also provide paid paternity leave along with guaranteed paid sick leave and vacation time.
Fortunately, programs in California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island provide highly successful models of family and disability leave programs that other states can replicate. Washington and other states can learn from the experience in these states to craft their own programs in ways that assure that all workers have access, regardless of income or occupation, and that businesses of all sizes can support their workers and communities and continue to thrive.
Adopting statewide paid family and medical leave programs to assure all workers access to paid leave is a crucial step toward overcoming health disparities and inequality in the U.S., and the key to eventual Congressional action to make universal and portable family and medical leave accessible to all U.S. workers.
The benefits of paid family and medical leave include boosting infant and parent health, promoting family economic security and equity, protecting workers’ health, and supporting elder and family care. But currently, the benefits associated with lengthy paid parental leaves in the U.S. are available mostly to babies lucky enough to be born in one of the handful of states with a disability insurance/family leave program, or whose parents are highly paid professionals with especially generous employers. Extended time off work with pay to go through treatment and fully recover from serious illness or injury, or care for a family member, is also not available to most workers.
Federal and local policy successes – including the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, and State Disability and Family Leave Insurance Programs – point the way forward. While Washington state’s progress has been somewhat stymied by business lobby opposition and economic downturns, the need for policy change on paid leave is increasingly in the national spotlight.
Despite all this activity, the U.S. remains a long way from universal paid family leave. While many individual business owners support paid leave legislation, most business lobby associations at the local, state, and federal levels oppose new labor standards and and actively campaign against them. The path to eventual Congressional victory will be long and will require additional states to adopt programs and provide even more proof that family-friendly policies are fully compatible with a strong economy and strong businesses.
In the meantime, state lawmakers can learn from the proven results in states with Temporary Disability Insurance and/or Paid Family Leave laws on the books, where outcome for both workers have been positive and businesses have continued to enjoy success. Experience from existing state programs suggests that policy details and implementation strategies can be crafted to maximize the positive impacts of family and medical leave insurance on health and family economic security.
Policy considerations include:
- Leaves need to be long enough to meet common basic health needs of workers, infants, and family members.
- Wage replacement rates need to be structured so that low- and moderate-income workers can afford to take time off, along with higher income.
- Providing job security to workers beyond FMLA will also enhance the ability of economically vulnerable workers to take leaves.
- Educational materials to employers must be clear and provided through a variety of methods. Employers need to understand what they must do to comply, with minimal confusion and paperwork. Most workers will find out about the program through their employers, so employers must know when an employee is likely to be eligible for benefits and where to direct the employee to apply.
- Outreach to workers must also be multipronged and continuous, including through health providers and community organizations, particularly those who serve lower income and other vulnerable workers who are least likely to otherwise know about benefits available to them.
- The application process must be simple, with help available in multiple languages and culturally appropriate ways.
The evidence is consistent and compelling: establishing family and medical leave insurance for all workers will reduce health disparities, dramatically improve outcomes for young children, enhance the quality of life of seniors, boost the lifetime earnings of women, and reduce the high social and public costs associated with poverty and inequality in the United States. We have proven policy tools to enact universal, portable, low cost systems at the state and federal levels now. Voters of all parties support adoption of these policies. It is time for Washington and other states to move forward.
Excerpted from EOI policy brief: Paid Family and Medical Leave: A Cornerstone of Equity and Opportunity for Workers and Families »
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.
“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.