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Thursday May 19th: Celebrate paid sick and safe leave in Tacoma!

May 11, 2016

amanda-deshazo-htMore 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 »

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

April 20, 2016

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!

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The Department of Labor’s proposed paid leave rule could set a new standard for inclusion

April 14, 2016

Last Labor Day, the movement to ensure that everyone has the ability to take paid sick leave scored a major victory when President Obama signed an executive order to provide employees of federal contractors with paid time for personal or family health needs.

Now, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is poised to set another standard that further demonstrates the ways the federal government serves as one of our country’s model employers. The DOL is proposing rules that will not only determine how many people are covered by family leave, but also how “family” is defined.

Read more: Jobs with Justice »

Workplace Flexibility Matters For Men, Women And Your Bottom Line

April 13, 2016

Brendon Schrader, founder of Antenna, a Minneapolis-based firm that delivers experienced marketing professionals to companies of all sizes.

[Via] For many years, when we talked about “workplace flexibility” or “flex time,” most people really only thought it applied to working mothers. But workplace flexibility has always been something fathers value, too. And the conversation about flexible work is becoming more and more gender-inclusive.

A flexible workplace has always been important to me: early in my career as an aspiring professional, then a corporate employee, and now as a father and entrepreneur. When I worked as a corporate marketer inside a Fortune 500 company, I felt constrained by the traditional work structure and how flexibility was perceived by the organization. Ten years ago, true flexibility just wasn’t accepted. I built my own firm partly to create more flexibility for myself and others who want the same things.

In late 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced he’d be taking two months of parental leave following the birth of his first child and expanded the company’s parental leave policy to grant four months of paid leave to all full-time workers (male or female). Although some companies are making stridesto support flex time for all employees, men’s desire and need for flexibility still typically receives little attention from the traditional organization.

Women and men clearly need more flexibility: In a survey by the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of working fathers said it was very or somewhat difficult to balance the responsibilities of their jobs and their families. In my view, we need to include both men and women in the conversation about work flexibility in order to expand this issue and create supportive, positive workplaces for every employee and family.

Full Article »

While Congress Stalls, The Country Has Now Passed 30 Paid Sick Leave Laws

March 15, 2016

sick-kid-and-momPaid sick days wins keep growing! First, Santa Monica, CA: up to 9 paid sick days in companies of 26 or more, 5 paid sick days in smaller firms, and the minimum wage will increase to $15/hour by 2020. Next: Plainfield, NJ is the 12th city in that state to pass ‪#‎PaidSickDays‬! Congrats to NJ Working Families Party and Time to Care Coalition!

Read more: ThinkProgress »

Testimony by Marilyn Watkins opposing SB 6578 and SSB 6087, limiting paid sick days and minimum wage ordinances

February 1, 2016
marilyn watkins

Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute

Testimony of Marilyn Watkins, Economic Opportunity Institute, in opposition to SB 6578 and SSB 6087, before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, February 1, 2016.

Good afternoon. I’m Marilyn Watkins of the Economic Opportunity Institute, speaking in opposition to SB 6578 and SSB 6087.

Washington needs to raise labor standards so that people who work hard in necessary jobs can live in dignity. The minimum wage and sick leave standards proposed in SSB 6087 simply do not go far enough to protect public health and family economic security. State standards must be a floor, not a ceiling, and local jurisdictions should be able to continue to pilot new standards as our economy evolves.

One million workers in Washington do not get a single day of sick leave now, including many in restaurants, retail, personal care, and other occupations with direct public contact. A standard of only 3-5 days would be only a modest improvement, forcing too many people to continue to go to work sick. Norovirus, which is often spread by ill food service workers, is contagious for up to 7 days, according to the CDC. So is the flu. Nationally, the average worker with sick leave uses 4 days annually – but the average includes some who use none, and others who use higher amounts. We found in interviews with low wage Seattle workers, that 25% took no paid sick days the previous year, and 17% took 6 or more.[1]

Why WA Needs PSD thumb 1Washington’s working families also need a higher minimum wage than $12 in 2020, as proposed in SSB 6087. Even today, a single, childless adult working full-time at $12 cannot meet basic expenses in most parts of the state.[2] The vast majority of low wage workers in Washington are adults, many with families to support.  Over half of workers making under $13.50 are over age 30, and 3 in 10 have children at home.[3] Across the U.S., the lowest wage workers are also least likely to get sick leave, compounding economic insecurity: 8 in 10 workers in the lowest 10% of wages and 2 in 3 in the lowest 25% of wages don’t get any.[4]

Children from low income families would continue to suffer the most if workplace standards are removed or set too low. Their parents are least likely to have sick leave voluntarily provided by employers. When parents have inadequate sick leave, kids are left sick at school, older kids have to skip school to stay home with sick siblings, and children don’t get adequate health care – especially those with chronic conditions.

Because cities have led the way, we have data on impacts from paid sick leave laws. San Francisco’s law has been in effect since 2007, Seattle’s since 2012. Over 20 cities and 4 U.S. states (California, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Connecticut ) have paid sick leave laws in place. Most of these have much higher standards than proposed here.

Studies of sick leave laws to date show:[5]

  • Covered economies are equaling or out-performing nearby communities in job and business growth – including in Seattle and San Francisco where most workers receive 7 to 9 days annually.
  • Sick leave laws have had small to no impact on business costs, hiring, or location decisions.
  • A majority of business owners support the laws.
  • Workers and their families are benefitting with more access to paid leave and better ability to care for their own and their families’ health needs.

For years studies have found that businesses providing sick leave have higher morale and productivity, less absenteeism, lower rates of turnover,[6] and increased firm profits.[7] A CDC study found that workers with paid sick leave have 28% fewer workplace accidents.[8]

Studies that take into account all of the data on differing minimum wage levels show that higher minimum wages also do not impact the number of jobs. Higher minimum wages do reduce turnover and increase incomes, helping local economies prosper.[9]

Washington workers need to be raised up, not kept down. When working families prosper, our economy prospers and all our communities benefit.

[1]     Marilyn Watkins, “Employee experience with Seattle paid sick and safe leave,” September 2015, Economic Opportunity Institute,

[2]     Economic Policy Institute, Family Budget Calculator,

[3]     Economic Policy Institute, “It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage,” April 2015, analysis of raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 for Washington state.

[4]     U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits Survey, Table 32. Leave benefits: Access, civilian workers, National Compensation Survey, March 2015.

[5]     Economic Opportunity Institute, “Local results of paid sick leave laws,” January 2016,

[6]     Jane Waldfogel, “The Impact of the Family Medical Leave Act,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol. 18, Spring 1999; Thomas E. Casey and Karen Warlin, “Retention and Customer Satisfaction,” Compensation & Benefits Review, May/June 2001, p. 27-30.

[7]     Christine Siegwarth Meyer, et al, “Work-Family Benefits: Which Ones Maximize Profits?” Journal of Managerial Issues, vol. XIII, No. 1, Spring 2001: 28-44. Specific estimates of the decline in workers voluntarily leaving their jobs because of access to paid sick leave range between 3.6 and 6.4 percentage points; at the mid-point, that translates into one less quite per year for every 20 employees. See: Vicky Lovell, “Valuing Good Health: An Estimate of Costs and Savings for the Healthy Families Act,” April 2005, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, See also: Reagan Baughman, Daniela DiNardi, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, (2003) “Productivity and wage effects of ‘family-friendly’ fringe benefits”, International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 24 Iss: 3, pp.247 – 259; Patricia C. Borstorff and Michael B. Marker, “Turnover Drivers and Retention Factors Affecting Hourly Workers: What is Important” Management Review: An International Journal¸ Vol 2, No.1, June 30, 2007, pp. 14-27; Stephen Miller, “’Most Admired’ Tie Rewards to Performance, Address Work/Life,” March 11, 2011, viewed March 21, 2011,

[8]     American Journal Public Health, Sep 2012, “Paid sick leave and nonfatal occupational injuries.”

[9]     Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich, “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties,“ The Review of Economics and Statistics, November 2010,; Allegretto, Sylvia, Dube, Arindrajit, Reich, Michael, “Do Minimum Wages Really Reduce Teen Employment? Accounting for Heterogeneity and Selectivity in State Panel Data,” Industrial Relations, April 2011,; Dube, Lester, and Reich, “Do Frictions Matter in the Labor Market? Accessions, Separations and Minimum Wage Effects, ” October 12, 2010,

Spokane City Council holds firm on commitment to paid sick days

January 26, 2016

Photo: James Hawley/Flickr Creative Commons [Original:]

Photo: James Hawley/Flickr Creative Commons [Original:]

Spokane’s City Council held firm on their commitment to assuring that people working in the city will be able to earn paid sick and safe leave starting next January. Mayor Condon vetoed  the law that passed January 11 with a 6 to 1 vote, saying he hoped the Council would reconsider. But the Council acted to override that veto at their next meeting, January 25, 2016.

Over the past two years, hundreds of workers, business owners, and community leaders turned out to talk about what a paid sick days ordinance would mean to them. The overwhelming majority of them favored passing an ordinance to protect public health, allow survivors of domestic violence to seek safety, and boost family economic security.

Without sick leave standards in place, four in ten workers don’t get a single day of paid sick leave, and many more face penalties at work when they do call in sick. Spokane’s new law will allow people to stay home from work when sick without losing income. Sick children won’t be left miserable at school or home alone because a parent can’t take off work. And as Carol Krawczyk of the Spokane Alliance and I said in our Spokane Spokesman-Review op-ed:

Customers of Spokane businesses will be able to rest a little easier next year when the law takes effect, knowing the person serving their salad, caring for a loved one in a nursing home or handling their store purchase isn’t being forced by family finances or employer policy to come in sick.

Spokane is the third city in Washington state to pass paid sick leave. Next November, voters statewide will likely have the chance to weigh in on a ballot measure providing a minimum standard for paid sick leave for workers across the state, along with an increase in the minimum wage.

Marilyn Watkins is policy director for the Economic Opportunity Institute, which spearheads the Washington Work and Family Coalition.

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