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Sick and safe leave right for Spokane

January 25, 2016

[via The Spokesman-Review] No one should be forced to go to work sick. No child should languish ill and miserable at school because her parent fears a missed shift will result in a lost job. No worker should have to choose between grocery money or taking a few days off to get well.

That is what thousands of citizens told the Spokane Alliance in its two-year campaign to bring earned sick and safe leave to more than 40,000 low-income workers who toil in Spokane with no safety net.

In 2014, and again last year, the Spokane Alliance convened two community forums attended by 500 people at which several Spokane City Council members agreed to work with us on a sick-leave policy. Dozens of local businesses joined in, arguing that paid sick leave and paid time off to deal with domestic violence is good for their employees – and good for business. Over 1,000 local people signed supportive cards that we delivered to City Hall last summer.

Our elected City Council members listened – and acted.

They convened a diverse task force of business leaders, health professionals, unions and nonprofits to study the issue. In June, the task force recommended that “all employees should be covered for earned sick and safe leave in Spokane.”

On Jan. 11, the City Council voted 6-1 for an ordinance requiring businesses to offer three to five days of sick leave, depending on business size, for everyone in the city.

Now that Mayor David Condon has vetoed the ordinance as threatened, the council should immediately override.

Seventy-two people signed up to testify on Jan. 11. Supporters of earned sick and safe leave packed the council chamber. The overwhelming majority of those who spoke urged a strong ordinance to protect public health. Many told moving stories.

Adrielle Toussaint recounted having the stomach flu and being told by her now former employer she had to come to work anyway. As she sat weeping on the bathroom floor after being violently sick, her boss told her to get back to serving her retail customers.

School nurse Kira Lewis described kids coming to school with fevers and flu because their parents could not take off work.

After the vote, City Council President Ben Stuckart said he could not imagine not having sick leave while his father lay dying over a year ago and his wife experienced health problems in recent months.

Spokane now joins two dozen other cities – large and small – and four states in having minimum paid sick leave. All faced opposition from a vocal minority, but data show the fears expressed by critics are unfounded.

Local economies with sick-leave laws are equaling or outperforming nearby communities in job and business growth, according to academic and government studies.

During Spokane’s debate over sick leave, it has been easy to forget about the high cost of not guaranteeing sick leave for all: poorer health, children struggling in school, family insecurity and lost consumer spending.

In a recent report, the Spokane Regional Health District said “presenteeism” – coming to work sick – leads to lost productivity, increased workplace accidents and higher turnover, forcing costly hiring and training of new workers.

Business economists have repeatedly found that presenteeism costs American companies more each year than providing sick leave. Those savings explain why most employers have been able to implement new sick-leave policies with minimal impact on business costs.

Spokane’s ordinance is especially well-designed because it covers almost all employers. Germs don’t pay attention to an employer’s size.

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.

And the workers themselves? They will have a modest safety net allowing them to cope with illness and domestic violence.

We congratulate the Spokane City Council on its new sick and safe leave policy – a victory for everyone.

Carol Krawczyk is the lead organizer for the Spokane Alliance. Marilyn Watkins is the policy director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a Seattle-based think tank.

Congratulations on paid sick and safe leave, Spokane!

January 15, 2016

spokane-sick-and-safe-leave-300x300On January 11, 2016, the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance assuring most people working in the city the right to earn paid sick and safe leave starting next year.  The Council voted 6 to 1 for the ordinance.

At the start of Monday evening’s 5 ½ hour long council meeting, the policy on the table provided for only three days of paid sick time. After listening to testimony from over 50 people – the overwhelming majority of them favoring a universal policy of at least five days, the Council amended the proposal. The ordinance as passed allows workers to earn an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 5 days in companies with 10 or more employees, and up to 3 days in smaller firms. Paid leave can be used for the health needs of the worker or a family member, bereavement, and to deal with the consequences of domestic violence or sexual assault.

The Spokane Alliance led the Earned Sick and Safe Time Spokane Coalition in a remarkable two-year organizing effort that included a listening tour with over 50 small businesses and nonprofits, multiple community forums, and collecting stories of impacted workers. They coordinated testimony and turnout at hearings and events, submission of letters to the editor and op-eds, and the delivery of over 1,000 public comments to Council members.

Spokane is the first jurisdiction in 2016 to pass a paid sick days law. In 2015, Tacoma was first out of the gate. Four states and more than 20 U.S. cities, including Seattle, SeaTac, and Portland, now have sick leave laws in place.


Testimony of Marilyn Watkins, EOI Policy Director »

Testimony of Kira Lewis, RN, BSN »

It’s Time to Get Real About Work/Life Balance. It’s 2016.

January 14, 2016
Stormtrooper sisyphus

Photo: Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr Creative Commons

When we talk about flexible work, what image comes to mind? It’s that same dang woman with the 1980s shoulder pads and grocery cart, right? Yet let’s get real: Ellen Galinsky, head of The Families and Work Institute, told me that their research shows that men actually work more flexible schedules than women do. Men even telecommute more than women. Why? Because more men are in positions of power. Affinity bias, or the Old Boys Network, ensures that men stay in those positions of power. And when you have power, you can control your time.

So let’s stop talking about how women lack ambition, or that they don’t have the drive—or the capability—to get to the corner office. Let’s get real: It’s time to carve different paths to the top, to re-design the way we work for everyone, even in the corner office, to reward focus, not multi-tasking, to value effectiveness, performance, and results, and not wear our long hours in the office like a badge of honor.

I was talking recently with Brad Harrington, director of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family who has pioneered much of the research on the evolving roles of men and fatherhood. We were lamenting how, when you say “work-life,” or “work-family,” people’s eyes tend to glaze over. Up rises the specter of that woman in a power business suit, wearing heels and wielding a shopping cart. We wondered if what we needed to grab people’s attention, and convince them how central these issues are, is new language.

But I’ve come to see that it’s not vocabulary that needs changing. It’s our thinking. That these issues have languished so long on the mommy track/women’s initiative backwater is nothing short of a colossal failure of imagination. Now it’s up to all of us to get real, to think bigger, and begin to make the real changes we all need in order to live a good life not in 2102, but in 2016.

Full story: Pacific Standard »

Congratulations Oregon! Statewide paid sick leave bill wins final legislative approval

June 15, 2015

On Friday, Oregon’s state House passed a bill that would require most employers to offer five days of paid sick leave to their employees. If the governor signs it into law as advocates believe she will, it will be the fourth state in the country with such a requirement.

paid sick leave june 2015

Oregon’s bill applies to businesses with 10 or more employees and allows workers to accrue an hour of sick time for every 30 they work. The leave could be used to care for a worker herself, a family member, or donate it to a coworker. An estimated 47 percent of workers in the state don’t have access to paid sick days, including more than 70 percent of low-wage workers.

snackrilege OR psdAfter the bill passed, Jeff Anderson, chair of the Oregon Working Families Party and Secretary Treasurer for UFCW 555, said, “This has been a long time in the making, and it’s a big win for the Working Families Party, for my union, and for working families across the state.”

The bill comes after Portland passed its own requirement in 2013 and Eugene passed one last year. City and state laws across the country have picked up momentum in the past couple of years, with 2014 holding the record at 11 passed. Before Oregon’s vote, three others had been passed this year.

Read more from ThinkProgress »

Public Meetings on Tacoma Paid Leave Scheduled for April 22, May 14 and June 10

April 14, 2015

According to a City of Tacoma press release, Paid Leave rules and regulations as well as a notice to employers and employees have been drafted and are available for community members to review. The City will hold the following public meetings to seek input:

April 22, 2015
5:30 – 6:30 PM
Tacoma Public Library Main Branch (Olympic Room)
1102 Tacoma Avenue S

May 14, 2015
5:30 – 6:30 PM
Wilson High School Library
1202 N Orchard Street

June 10, 2015
5:30 – 6:30 PM
Star Center (Discovery Room)
3873 S 66th Street

More information is available at, by calling (253) 591-5252 or by emailing

Tacoma becomes 18th U.S. city to pass paid sick days legislation

January 30, 2015

Ryan Mello, Tacoma City Council member: “I am so proud that Tacoma has made history by passing a paid sick leave policy for all working people in our city.”

Following the Tacoma City Council’s vote on Tuesday, Jan. 27, Tacoma becomes the 18th city in the nation – in addition to the states of Connecticut, California and Massachusetts – to pass legislation requiring all private sector employers with one or more employees to offer paid sick and safe leave. The Council voted eight to one to pass the ordinance after passionate public testimony and deliberation that carried on into the late evening.

The ordinance requires all private sector employers with one or more employees to offer up to three days of paid leave per year, accrued at a rate of 40 hours worked to one hour paid leave earned, to all employees working in Tacoma. Accrued, but unused, paid leave will be carried over so an employee can use up to five days leave in their second year of employment. The paid leave can be used in the case of employee illness, illness of a family member or for bereavement. Importantly, the legislation also includes protections for workers experiencing stalking, domestic violence and/or sexual assault, to take paid time off in order to pursue legal protection and safety planning.

Council Member Ryan Mello led efforts for a stronger policy that would include more than three days leave, and a policy that includes all workers. “I am so proud that Tacoma has made history by passing a paid sick leave policy for all working people in our city,” he said. “More families will have greater piece of mind and our public health will be that much better. This is not a perfect policy, but it is a significant step in the right direction and I am committed to improving this over the coming year.”

Following an amendment made by Mello, all workers, including those subject to collective bargaining agreements, will be covered under the ordinance. Rulemaking will begin shortly and the ordinance will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2016.

On the impact of a paid sick leave policy in Tacoma, Mello said, “This is a key strategy to grow our economy from the middle out, not trickle down, and to help those most vulnerable in our economy or community.”

Tacoma is the first city in the nation to pass a paid sick days policy after President Barack Obama urged support of the issue in his 2015 State of the Union address.

Healthy Tacoma statement on passage of Tacoma paid sick leave ordinance

January 27, 2015

People should not have to decide between staying home to get well and putting food on the table. It is common sense to make sure we all have the right to access paid sick days.

Tonight the Tacoma City Council passed a paid sick leave ordinance by a vote of 8-1. The ordinance improves on Mayor Strickland’s original proposal by covering all workers, including those in labor unions. “Removing the discriminatory language against workers who have a Collective Bargaining Agreement was a positive step to protect public health and families,” said Patty Rose of the Pierce County Labor Council.

However, it falls short by limiting workers to earning only 3 days of sick leave per year. That’s not enough to protect public health; many workers, and especially parents, will still be forced to choose between a paycheck and getting healthy. Council members had the opportunity to amend the proposed ordinance to allow workers to earn up to 5 paid sick days per year, but voted 6-3 to leave that portion of the ordinance unchanged.

Tacoma’s workers, business owners, faith leaders and others deserve credit for pushing the Council to consider this issue. We commend the leadership of Council members Ryan Mello, Anders Ibsen, and Victoria Woodards, who supported amendments to ensure every worker could earn up to 5 days of leave per year.

“Whether you’re caring for yourself, a child, or an aging parent, everyone gets sick, and everyone needs time to get better,” said Rose. “We look forward to working with both current and future city council members to shore up this policy.”

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