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:

Vote for an opportunity economy

king-county-ballot-drop-boxYou got your ballot in the mail. Now what? Vote!  Our votes up and down the ballot will help shape our state and nation for decades into the future. Among the many important issues and candidates, Initiative 1433 and the Sound Transit measure allow us to directly boost economic opportunity and vitality in our communities.

Growing income inequality is harming our families and undermining our democracy. In the 1980s, President Reagan and Congress launched a cycle of tax cuts on the wealthy and disinvestment in infrastructure, education, and other basic services that assaulted economic security for millions of working families and still limit our vision of what we can achieve together.

The policies of austerity have allowed the rich to grow fantastically wealthy, while the majority of households struggle, and opportunities for young people remain hemmed in by race, gender, and circumstances of birth.

Initiative 1433 will raise the statewide minimum wage in four steps, beginning with $11.00 in 2017, up to $13.50 in 2020, followed by cost of living adjustments. Washington’s current minimum wage of $9.47 isn’t enough for even a single person to cover the basics in most parts of the state. Over 90% of the lowest wage workers are adults, many with children and families to support.

Without I-1433, minimum wage outside Seattle will rise only 6 cents in 2017 based on general inflation. But rent and other necessities are skyrocketing in communities large and small around the state.

I-1433 also assures every worker in Washington has the opportunity to earn a few days paid sick leave. Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane have adopted local sick leave laws, but still 1 million peopleworking in Washington – including across south King County – don’t get a single day of sick leave now.

Many of them work in lower wage jobs in restaurants, retail, and caregiving. That means when they have the flu, their child is sick, or their elderly parent has to go to the doctor, they make a choice – sacrifice family and public health or lose that day’s pay, and maybe their job.

Naysayers like to wring their hands and cry job loss every time stronger labor standards are proposed. But their dire predictions just don’t come true. In fact, the past two decades of experienceshow that raising the minimum wage increases incomes for low wage workers and decreases costly turnover. That means working families spend more and businesses spend less on hiring and training new workers.

The family economic stability that results from higher wages and access to sick leave means kids will be healthier and do better in school and in later life. Our whole community benefits from this common sense policy.

Investing in transportation infrastructure also has multiple immediate and lasting benefits. It creates good jobs now, helps grow the middle class, and stimulates economic growth across business sectors. Expanding public transit allows people of all income levels access to a broader range of jobs and schooling.

It reduces pressure on highways so that goods and people who do rely on them move more efficiently, wasting less time and fuel. It’s one of the absolutely necessary investments we need to make to slow and mitigate climate change, which hits low-income families and communities of color the hardest.

Our votes for state legislature and the whole long list of other candidates right on up to President matter, too, in determining the kind of society we will be and the shape of the world we will leave our children and grandchildren. It’s a long ballot, but our mail-in voting system means we can vote in the comfort of our homes, taking the time to consult the voters’ guide, check out endorsements, and do some research on the issues we don’t understand. Don’t wait until November 8 to get started!

Original: South Seattle Emerald »

WA voters, your ballots are coming: check out this podcast on Initiative 1433, a.k.a. Raise Up Washington!

The economic and social benefits of paid sick leave are widespread — but more than 1 million Washingtonians have no access to earning paid sick leave. In this podcast, the team at Civic Skunk Works sits down with Rep. Jessyn Farrell and Bill Marler, a national food safety lawyer and advocate who works with people impacted by dangerous outbreaks (think Chipotle) to discuss why passing Initiative 1433 is critical for Washington families, makes our communities safer from outbreaks and helps our economy.

Listen here »

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:


Report: At Current Rate, Women Won’t Close Pay Gap Until 2059

Full-time working women in Washington make about 79 percent as much as their male counterparts. (AFGE/flickr)

Full-time working women in Washington make about 79 percent as much as their male counterparts. (AFGE/flickr)

If the gender pay gap continues to close at its current rate, women will reach pay equity with men in 2059, according to a new report from the American Association of University Women. Called The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, the report finds full-time working women are slowly closing the disparity, making about 80 percent nationally of what their male counterparts make.

Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, said the issue isn’t just that women are paid less for the same job title. Often, as in the technology field, they are shuffled into lower-paying positions.

“Men might get the job as coders, which are the most highly paid jobs, and women get slotted into the testing part, where they still have to have a lot of computer and technology skills but they just get paid less and they don’t have the opportunity to really rise up in the organization either,” she said.

In Washington, full-time working women make 79 percent of what men working full-time make, according to the report.

Watkins said Washington state could strengthen its equal-pay laws by looking to other states. This summer, she said, Massachusetts passed one of the strongest equal-pay laws in the country, which makes sure companies pay equally for comparable jobs and job requirements.

“For example, cafeteria workers and custodians might be deemed comparable jobs even though one is traditionally female and gets paid a lot less than the traditionally male custodial jobs,” she added.

Equal-pay legislation, such as bills that provide for wage transparency, have failed in Washington’s Legislature over the past few years. But Watkins said the paid sick-leave initiative on this year’s ballot could boost Washington women in the workplace.

The report also found that African-American women make about two-thirds and Hispanic or Latina women make about half of what white men make nationwide. Watkins said it’s important to think about how policies that close the gender pay gap affect women of color as well.

“We really do need to include a racial equity lens as well as a gender equity lens when we’re looking at policies,” explained Watkins. “All of these policies will really help end some of the racial inequities as well as some of the gender inequities.”

The full report can be read here.

[Via Public News Service]

Of course Hillary Clinton went to work sick. That’s the American way.

hillary-clintonAs Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton demonstrated when she nearly collapsed from the effects of walking pneumonia early this week, the benefits of running for elected office may include many things, but sick days are not among them.

This is perhaps unavoidable in light of the fact that the job of actually being an elected official doesn’t allow for much rest and recuperation, either — see, for instance, John F. Kennedy plowing ahead despitecrippling back pain and Addison’s disease, which he wanted to conceal from the public; and George H.W. Bush ignoring a doctor’s advice in 1992 to stay in bed rather than attend a state dinner in Japan, with the result being that he vomited on the Japanese prime minister. “The president is human,” Bush’s physician told reporters at the time. “He gets sick.”