Watch: Lawmakers rally in support of paid sick days

This week, lawmakers in the state House stood with Washington’s working families and passed the legislature’s first paid sick days bill. The bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), along with her colleagues shared rousing testimony in support of paid sick and safe days. Check out video of their floor speeches below.

Representative Laurie Jinkins

“The Centers for Disease Control have told us that upwards of 80 percent of norovirus that’s transmitted across the nation is from sick food service workers. Now a lot of people don’t know what norovirus is Mr. Speaker but just let me tell you, it’s a gift you don’t want to be given. The thing about it is, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do something about it.”

Representative Tana Senn

“I rise in support of sick and safe leave. Sometimes we get so focused on the nuts and bolts of the legislation that we forget about the real people that it’s impacting so let’s put a face to the people that’ were talking about right now. I want to tell you about a woman named Jennifer, a restaurant worker in east King County, who went home one night and was almost beaten to death.”

Representative Roger Freeman

“I rise in support of this bill, this very personal bill to me. When I got my diagnosis last February, one of the first things that ran through my mind was with cancer how many days I was going to have to be off of work. My wife is a homemaker and if I don’t work no one gets paid, the family has no income.”

Representative Cyrus Habib

“This bill reminds me less of those other bills whether it’s minimum wage or other things then it does a bill that’s very near and dear to my heart, that’s now the law of the land, and…went into effect 20 years ago and that’s the Americans with Disabilities Act. You know when the ADA was being debated in Congress over 20 some years ago you heard a lot of the same arguments from business. You may have even heard a line like a job with no wheelchair ramp is better than no job at all. But we know that’s not true.”


Originally published at EOI Online

Time to take care of our own: Let’s pull ourselves into the 21st century, America

The United States is one of four countries in the world that doesn’t offer new moms paid maternity leave. Pakistan has better maternity leave policies than us.  Now, I can be an American exceptionalist as good as the next girl, but are you kidding me?

Just two months ago, the FAMILY Act was introduced to Congress for the first time. The bill would create a family and medical leave insurance program to be used for parental leave, a serious medical emergency or to take care of an ill parent, spouse or child. The proposal is modeled after successful social insurance programs in California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

What would paid leave mean for you? Well, if you have a family or plan to start one someday, it might be nice to take time off to care for your child or – you know – heal from delivering a baby.  In 1993, 21 years ago today, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow new parents to take job-protected, but unpaid, parental leave. But over 80 percent of expecting moms don’t even qualify for the FMLA. Employees aren’t getting much relief from their bosses either – only 12 percent of workers have access to paid family leave through their workplace, yet 81 percent of U.S. women will have children by the time they’re 40.

But paid family leave isn’t just about our kids – it’s about our parents too. The first Baby Boomers turned 65 in 2011. Between now and 2030 the population of those over the age of 65 will grow to 72 million, up from 35 million in 2010. Today, 43.5 million adults – mostly grown kids and aging spouses – are providing unpaid care for someone over the age of 50, costing the U.S. trillions of dollars each year in lost wages, absenteeism and productivity. Two-thirds of all caregivers are women, complicating women’s ability to thrive in workplaces that don’t accommodate the demands of family.

The Washington legislature has considered, but not passed, bills for statewide paid sick days and state-based family and medical leave insurance. Passage of paid leave bills in either “Washington” would mean every worker could earn a few days of sick leave each year for doctor’s visits or when the flu strikes. Every baby born in our state would have the benefit of the best possible start, with loving care by parents no longer forced to rush back to work too soon. Working people could spend time with a dying parent or critically ill spouse, without risking a financial disaster. An economically secure workforce means lower costs for the state and taxpayers, too.

Paid family and medical leave is a common sense solution to the predictable booms and busts of work and family. It’s a popular idea too – 72% of U.S. voters support expanded paid family and sick leave policies.

It’s time to update policies to match the reality of today’s working families. It’s time to take care of our own.

Originally published at EOIOnline

Seattle Speaks for Itself: D.C. Corporate Group is dead wrong on paid sick leave

Last week, The Seattle Times published an op-ed by Michael Saltsman of the D.C. Employment Policies Institute asserting that a recent EPI study had found Seattle’s paid sick days law was hurting local businesses. As we pointed out at the time, EPI’s ‘report’ was basically an opinion survey of targeted opponents to sick days.

But Seattle has never been a city to sit quiet while a D.C mouthpiece purports to speak for our city and region. The Times published a handful of letters to the editor from supporters of paid sick days. Here’s what Seattle had to say about itself:

Leave especially important in food industry

Michael Saltsman’s critique of Seattle’s paid sick-leave law neglects to mention the public-health benefits of enabling people to stay home from work when they are sick. [“Guest column: Sick-leave pay not a cure-all,” Opinion, Aug. 20.]…

Everyone can agree that restaurant workers should not to handle food when they are sick. But without paid leave, some workers simply cannot afford to stay home, no matter how ill they are. In fact, a recent survey of food-service workers found that in the past year alone, 5 percent worked while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea…(continue)

Kelly Richburg, Seattle

Institute works against labor interests

The research director of the Employment Policies Institute, author of the recent column on sick leave, is part of a conservative organization devoted to keeping wages as low as possible, and benefits nonexistent. [“Guest column: Sick-leave pay not a cure-all,” Opinion, Aug. 20.]…

I commend The Seattle Times for allowing this column to be printed, thereby allowing the reader to better understand the forces working against all working women, men and children…(continue)

Mark Parrent, Bellevue

Consider the source

…As people read the recent guest column by Michael Saltsman, they should recognize the real agenda of ‘fiscally-conservative’ think tanks like the Employment Policies Institute, which is to preserve profitability on the backs of those who can’t help themselves. [“Sick-leave pay not a cure-all,” Opinion, Aug. 20.]…(continue)

Steve Hawley, Issaquah

EOI’s Marilyn Watkins, who helped lead the campaign for paid sick days in Seattle and is now advocating for paid leave across Washington, also submitted a letter to The Times which ran in Sunday’s print edition.

Sick-leave helps people

No one wants to be served by a sick waiter. No sick child should languish in the school nurse’s office because their parent can’t leave work.

Now, a year after Seattle’s sick-leave law went into effect, we can be confident that workers in our city at least have the option of staying home when the flu strikes.

Michael Saltsman’s swipe at Seattle’s law cites a survey of selected businesses, about one-third of whom believed sick leave would increase future costs. But he provides no evidence that it actually does.

The New York Times has described the Employment Policies Institute that did the survey as a “business-backed nonprofit that … argues against a higher minimum wage,” whose industry donors include chain restaurants.

It’s too early to have good data on the impacts of the sick-leave law on jobs and public health. Meanwhile, Seattle’s economy is the best in the state, and workers having reliable family income can only help.

Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, Seattle

Seattle’s local media also responded to the attacks. Reporter David Goldstein, writing for The Stranger, called out EPI for its corporate backings and despicable funding source:

Although the Seattle Times describes EPI as a “nonprofit research organization,” it’s really anything but. In fact, EPI is nothing more than just one of about two dozen front groups created by DC-based corporate lobbyist Richard Berman, a Beltway-insider notorious for his take-no-prisoners tactics, and his all-out assaults on such enemies of freedom as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Humane Society.

The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog also picked up the story and checked in with local businesses to see how the sick-leave law had impacted their bottom lines. The answer? It hadn’t.

CHS talked to three Capitol Hill business owners who said implementing Seattle’s paid sick leave regulations hasn’t hurt their bottom line much at all…

Local chain MOD Pizza did not offer paid sick leave to its employees before the measure passed, but Chris Schultz, vice president of operations, said the ordinance caused the company to re-evaluate its policy. MOD Pizza now offers full paid sick leave to employees at all of its stores throughout the state of Washington…

If employees are comfortable in their working environment they will be less likely to abuse the policy, Schultz said.

“Folks want to come to work,” he said. “It’s not like they’re intentionally trying to take time off.”

“They like their jobs,” [Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream owner Molly Moon] Neitzel said. “We take care of them and in turn they’re great employees.”

As for the estimated 65.4% of businesses that do not offer paid sick leave to their employees?

“I want to know what those businesses are so I don’t go eat there,” Neitzel said.

Originally published at EOI Online

The rich got richer by leaving the middle class in the dust – but it doesn’t have to be this way

As the U.S. climbs out of the Great Recession, Wall Street and big banks are enjoying record-high profits, at the expense of middle and low-income families still struggling to gain an economic foothold since the economy’s collapse.

This economic “recovery” is one for the few, not the many. According to a study by Berkeley economists, all gains in real income in 2010 and 2011 went to the top 1 percent of earners. Incomes actually shrunk by 0.4% for the bottom 99%. Put another way: in the first two years since the official end of the Great Recession officially, 121% of income gains went to the top 1 percent of earners.

The accumulation of wealth (and power) at the top isn’t a recent phenomenon. Years of lobbying by wealthy interests for changes in tax and labor law have inexorably forced millions of middle class families down the income ladder into poverty.

Between 1978 and 2012, CEO compensation, with options included, increased by almost 875%. Over the past 34 years, typical worker pay grew only 5.4%. And the pace of inequality is accelerating: CEOs out-earned workers 20-to-1 in 1965, 29-to-1 in 1978, 122-to-1 in 1995…and an astonishing 273-to-1 in 2012!

American families have been devastated by these public policies, which are designed to favor a wealthy few at the expense of the many in the middle. In 1992, journalist Bill Moyer began following the economic ups and downs of two middle-class families, the Stanleys and the Neumanns. Twenty years later both families are burdened by low wages, no retirement security, health care costs and few opportunities for stable employment:  Watch Two American Families on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

It wasn’t always this way. But for America to find its way back to a strong and thriving middle class, we need to redefine win the debate over economic policy. Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer have recently proposed a provocative strategy do to just that:

If…Americans accept…that fairness and prosperity are in zero-sum conflict, then progressive polices are intuitively and inherently unfriendly to economic growth. When they say prosperity and we say fairness, we are arguing from a position of weakness…

If middle-class people do not begin to think of themselves as job creators, then they will never intuitively embrace the policy ideas that we support. Only when middle-class voters begin to see themselves as the center of the economic universe will they begin to mobilize against the various elements of trickle-down policy that dominate this country’s political and policy agendas.

It’s time to activate that awareness and the agenda that flows from it by framing the debate between trickle-down and middle-out economics as a choice. It’s time to seize the middle-out moment.

Decades of research – and the experience of other nations around the world – show smart policies that support families and a strong middle class aren’t partisan, they’re common sense. Paid family and medical leave, a fair tax structure and world-class education systems support a growing middle class –and that is what stimulates growth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and ultimately widespread prosperity.

EOI is working to advance progressive public policies in Washington and across our region. We’re building toward a middle-out moment for Washington’s working families – join us.