By Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute and a PSARA Member
A couple weeks ago, as I approached the counter to make a purchase, the sales clerk blew her nose. Gross. The store was in the suburbs, so not covered by the Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Leave law. The young worker probably had to come in even with her obvious cold. Still, if another clerk hadn’t stepped in, I would have left the store without buying anything.
Across Washington, about 1 million workers don’t get a single paid sick day and nearly 90% of workers do not have paid family leave. For them taking off work to get healthy, take an ailing parent to the doctor, or care for a newborn or sick child means loss of badly needed income and sometimes loss of a job.
Access to Paid Sick Days for routine illnesses and doctor’s visits, and to Family and Medical Leave Insurance for more serious conditions or a newborn child is crucial to good health and quality of life. Our rapidly aging population and the ever-accelerating attack on worker pensions make it more important than ever that all workers have paid leave to care for their own health and their families. Aging workers are more vulnerable to serious illness themselves, and are more often called upon to care for a partner or parent with declining health. Paid leave allows workers to cover their bills when a medical crisis strikes, without having to cash in retirement savings or other assets.
By keeping family income stable, reducing staff turnover, and improving customer satisfaction, paid leave also boosts revenue to local businesses, reduces inequality, and helps grow the economy. Seattle’s sick leave law has been in place for over a year now, and business is booming – especially in the restaurant and retail sectors most affected. In 2013, four other cities from Portland, OR, to New York passed sick leave ordinances. And five states have had family and/or disability leave insurance successfully protecting workers and their families for years.
During 2014, the Washington State Legislature will meet for only 60 days. That isn’t much time – and the Senate is unlikely to pass any legislation that empowers working people and elders. But the Washington Work and Family Coalition – which includes PSARA – hopes to set the stage for a better legislature in 2015 and passage of Paid Sick Days and full Family and Medical Leave Insurance, including care for seriously ill parents.
Here’s what you can do to help win paid leave for all Washington workers:
1. Call your representatives in the House and urge them to pass Paid Sick and Safe Leave (H.B. 1313). Last year the bill passed through the committee process and is eligible for immediate passage in the House. Legislative Hotline: 1.800.562.6000
2. Email your Representatives and Senator and tell them why Paid Sick Days (H.B. 1313) and Family and Medical Leave Insurance (H.B 1457) are important to you and other PSARA members.
3. Check out the Work and Family Coalition website to learn more, waworkandfamily.org, and watch for email alerts.