Yes on I-1433 for Paid Sick Leave

arianadavid2Back in 2011, when her son developed a rash on his skin, Jessica Cox wasn’t taking any chances. She took the 7 year-old to see a doctor, who diagnosed Roseola, or Sixth disease, a viral illness developed in childhood.

As a result, the school asked Cox to keep her son home for a week. And when she couldn’t find anyone to take care of him so she could go to her job at a grocery store in Renton, Cox inquired about using sick time.

She knew her boss was tough, but was still not prepared for the harsh response.

“She literally told me that I could not make up a disease because I didn’t want to come in to work,” said Cox, who lives in Kent.

“She said I couldn’t use my sick leave because it didn’t involve me and if I wanted to, I could take days off but not get paid for them.”

Sponsors of a measure to establish paid sick leave for workers in Washington, say such policies are far too common.

Initiative 1433, set for the November ballot, would not only increase the minimum wage over the next four years, but provide up to seven days of paid sick and safe leave for workers to care for themselves or a sick family member. (Safe leave allows victims, such as domestic violence survivors, to find a secure living situation without losing a paycheck.)

The provision would benefit more than 1 million workers in the state who currently lack sick leave.

Many are minimum-wage or other low-income workers who earn their living in the state’s burgeoning service and retail economy and can’t afford to take time off when they or a family member becomes ill.

It’s a two-fold problem, said Jack Sorenson, campaign spokesman for Raise Up Washington, the initiative sponsor.

“No one should have to choose between staying home when they are sick or losing income,” he said.

“Families shouldn’t be put in a positon of sending a child to school sick or not being able to afford groceries at the end of the week.”

Women make up the majority of low-wage earners in the state and are therefore the least likely to have paid sick and safe leave, according to the campaign.

At the same time, mothers are 10 times more likely than their male partners to stay home with a sick child.

There are no federal laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave for workers. Five states, including neighboring Oregon, have such laws in place. In Washington, the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham and Spokane are among some 30 nationwide with similar laws.

Back in 2011, when her son became ill, Cox said she ended up taking more than a week off from work, losing over $400 in wages.

She and her co-workers, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers union, can access paid leave only after they have been sick for three consecutive days.

Sorenson said given that most people usually take no more than one or two sick days at a time, “if you can’t access it until the third day, that’s pretty much like not having it at all.”

Ariana Davis, who works at the same store, said that because of that policy, she’s gone to work sick on many occasions and ended up staying sick longer as a result.

“That’s unhealthy not just for co-workers, but for customers and communities,” she said.

Paid sick leave “is essential to making life better for every hard working family in America.”

Wage bump will help service workers, people of color

kenya-mapIn the refugee camp in Kenya, preparing to come to the United States, Ayan Barre believed all the tall tales she heard about the land where money grows on trees.

And after eight years in Seattle, the Somali mother of four jokes that by now she should be living in a nice big house and driving a fancy car.

But Barre, who lives in low-income housing in Kent, depends on income from her part-time job at an Amazon warehouse, supplemented by the assistance she gets for her elderly mother.

Until October, the warehouse job paid $13 an hour, almost on par with the top tier of the graduated minimum-wage proposal appearing on the November ballot.

While critics of Initiative 1433 have argued that $13.50 an hour, where the minimum wage rate would settle by 2020, is too much and goes too far, Barre’s struggle to support four kids and other family members on her meager earnings, illustrates the challenges low-income earners face.

In addition to requiring employers to provide up to seven paid sick and safe days a year, Initiative 1433 would hike the state’s minimum wage each year, over the next four years, from the current $9.47.

Full-time workers, at that rate, take home less than $20,000 a year, well below the poverty line for a family of four and insufficient, on its own, to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the state.

More than 730,000 minimum-wage earners would get a $600-a-month raise if 1433 is approved, according to Raise Up Washington, the initiative sponsor.

These workers come from all backgrounds and are employed in all sectors, from service to retail. They are child-care workers and home-health care providers.

One in six are women and women earning the minimum wage, according to Raise Up Washington, are the primary bread-winners in 40 percent of households with children.

“For many, this will mean no longer choosing between rent and child care, between food and transportation,” said Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, a campaign partner.

“When we raise the minimum wage, we lift people out of poverty and reduce dependence on social services and government programs.” RAMOS

The increase would be particularly meaningful in communities across South King County, where people of color represent a majority of the population. According to the campaign, more than 40 percent of African Americans and Latino workers earn less than $13.50 an hour.

Additionally, said Jack Sorenson, spokesman for Raise Up Washington, 88 percent of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20, “not the Leave it to Beaver teenager saving to buy their first set of wheels. That’s not true in this modern economy,” he said.

The average age: 35.

Last year, Washington Community Action Network launched a special voting project, Operation Spectra, in parts of South King County and surveyed voters on a series of economic issues, including the minimum wage.

More than 70 percent told canvassers they support raising the minimum wage.

I-1433 which would raise the rate to $11 an hour next year, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 by 2020.

Whether and where to establish a wage floor has been a source of controversy since it was first established on the federal level in the 1930s.

In making the case for a 25 cents-an-hour, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”

Today’s federal rate of $7.25, is lower than the rates in 29 states.

The common refrain that raising the minimum wage kills jobs has been repeatedly debunked; rather the opposite has proven to be true, Sorenson said.

“When people are taking home $600 more a month in pay, they are going out and buying clothes for their kids, buying groceries,” he said. “They look forward to going to a restaurant. That’s business that wasn’t there before.”

Two years ago, protests and walkouts by workers at McDonald became the spark for a movement that led to the passage of $15 minimums in several cities across the country, including Seattle. Seattle’s minimum wage will reach $15 by 2021.

Sorenson said, “$13.50 makes sense for the Washington economy outside of Seattle.”

And Barre, the Kent mother said recently Amazon agreed to increase hourly wages for her and her co-workers to $15 beginning in October, an increase, she said, that will go a long way to helping her family make ends meet.

Facing Race Report 2016

The 2016 Facing Race Report Card was released at a news conference today. In the report, 27 percent of Washington legislators received an “F” grade regarding race. The grade is based on 34 bills that impact disparities in communities of color. Thank you to all attendees and speakers including Sen. Pramila Jayapal, Sen. Cyrus Habib, Rep. Mia Gregerson, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, Roy Martin Brown, Maria de Jesus Lozano, and Dulce Saucedo.

Read the report here.

Stand With Women or Stand in the Way

20150918_115234When you support working families, as Washington CAN! has always done, it means you stand for policies that support women. In today’s world we know that more women than ever are working outside the home, heading households, and leading in the workplace. However, many workplace policies continue to leave women behind, particularly low-income women and women of color.

Because it’s time to fight back, Washington CAN! has recently joined with the Women’s Equality Center and their national Stand With Women campaign to make sure all women have a fair opportunity to be equal partners in the new economy. This means equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave to care for self and loved ones, reproductive freedom, and a higher minimum wage.

To quote from the campaign’s website: “Politicians must pick a side: will they stand with women by taking action to advance fairness, opportunity and freedom … or will they stand in the way.” It’s time to make fairness, opportunity and reproductive freedom for women a reality in our country. Therefore Washington CAN! will be demanding that our elected representatives stand with women for the change we need.

We must take action now to ensure that women get fair treatment in all aspects of our society. The system has been rigged against women for too long. We are taking part in a Stand with Women movement. We are committing to Stand with Women for freedom, for family values, for fairness and for opportunity.

Will you join us and Stand with Women?