Seattle Channel City Inside/Out: Paid Sick Leave

Since September 1st, workers in Seattle have been eligible to accumulate paid sick days under a new city law.

In this episode of the Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out, Cupcake Royale founder Jody Hall and Seattle restaurateur John Schmidt offer their thoughts, and Marilyn Watkins of the Economic Opportunity Institute addresses how other cities have fared after adopting a similar law.

Ffor more perspective, Mike Chin, Enforcement Manager of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, George Allen, Senior Vice President of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Fugere, Founder of Tutta Bella join City Inside/Out host Brian Callanan in studio.

jody hall, city inside out, seattle channel

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Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce receives award for advancing women’s health equity

Members and friends of the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce reunited to celebrate Paid Sick and Safe Leave with cake and other goodies. The Seattle Women’s Commission hosted the party on October 29, 2012, and presented the Coalition with the Jeanette Williams Award, in recognition of the newly implemented law’s impact on women’s and children’s health.

Abigail Echo-Hawk and Maria Villa shared personal stories that underscore why standards for paid leave and legal protections for workers are so necessary. Abigail was forced to leave her seriously injured child in another’s care because she couldn’t miss a day of work. Maria was fired from her job of seven years while she coped with the traumatic aftermath of a sexual assault on her young daughter.

Since September 1, 2012, most people working in Seattle have been able to accrue sick and safe time [well, I would hotlink to the know your rights piece if it were posted anywhere] that they can use without penalty in situations like those faced by Abigail or Maria, as well as for their own illness.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen credited the Coalition with really holding the council’s feet to the fire to win passage of the ordinance despite fierce opposition.

In accepting the award on behalf of the Coalition, Marilyn Watkins, policy director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, thanked the Women’s Commission for their early support. She noted that in a time of such political acrimony, the paid sick and safe leave campaign was a model of empowering citizens and bringing people together – with small business owners, workers, health professionals, advocates, policymakers, and City staff all collaborating to bring about good policy that makes life better for us all.

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The Seattle Healthy Workforce is getting an award: Join us for this special event!

Jeanette Williams

Jeanette Williams

Join the Seattle Women’s Commission to thank the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy  Workforce and other supporters for making Seattle’s new Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance a reality.

Monday, October 29, 6:00 pm
Bertha Landes Room, Seattle City Hall
600 4th Avenue (enter on Fifth Avenue)
RSVP: Marta.Idowu@seattle.gov

The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce will receive the 2012 Jeanette Williams Award in the Bertha Landes Room at City Hall, 600 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle, in recognition of the group’s organizing efforts to pass the Ordinance.

Thanks to a broad coalition of supporters, including many Seattle businesses, the City of Seattle has become the third city in the United States to mandate paid sick and safe time for employees who work within Seattle city limits. A lack of paid sick and safe time disproportionately impacts women, children and communities of color. Seattle came together to implement this critical protection for workers and their families, and now it is time to celebrate everyone’s hard work.

The Jeanette Williams Award was created as part of the 2003 Seattle Women’s Summit to honor an individual who demonstrates significant leadership and service in advancing the cause of women in Seattle.

Jeanette Williams served on the Seattle City Council from 1969 to 1989. In 1971 she was instrumental in establishing the nation’s first Seattle Women’s Commission and Office of Women’s Rights with paid staff. Prior to serving on Seattle City Council, Williams overcame gender stereotypes to become the first woman elected as County Chairperson for the King County Democratic Central Committee.

A tireless advocate for women’s issues, Jeanette Williams helped establish the first shelter for battered and abused women in Seattle, helped create the City’s Division on Aging, developed policies to address early childhood education, and sponsored critical legislation that for the first time prohibited discrimination in housing and employment in the City of Seattle

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More free workshops on Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Days ordinance [UPDATED]

Seattle paid sick and safe timeYou gotta hand it to the Seattle Office for Civil Rights – they just keep on doing public education and outreach on Seattle’s new Paid Sick and Safe Time ordinance.

If you’re wondering how paid sick and safe days will impact you or your business – or just want to learn more about how the new law works – head to one of these free workshops, open to the public:

    • Thursday, October 11, 3-5 pm – Central District: Douglass-Truth Library, 2300 E. Yesler Way (corner of 23rd and Yesler)
    • Wednesday, October 3, 10 am – 12 pm – Downtown: Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Avenue, Wright/Ketcham Meeting Room (Level 4)

For more information, contact:

Elliott Bronstein, Public Information Coordinator
Seattle Office for Civil Rights
206-684-4507
TTY 206-684-4503
elliott.bronstein@seattle.gov
www.seattle.gov/civilrights

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Calling on the candidates to debate real family issues

[Cross-posted from Washington Work and Family Coalition] By || USA Today

Denver student Jessica Smith has launched an online petition to urge tonight’s debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, to ask the candidates to explain their positions on family leave, sick time and similar workplace policies – sign it here.

Recently a group of about two dozen care-giving advocates, many of them children’s advocates too, gathered in a conference overlooking K Street to brainstorm about how to make care policies more prominent in the presidential campaign.

There was a universal agreement from the group that the attention to family-friendly public policy issues in this year’s campaign has been non-existent. I witnessed the gathering and found myself nodding my head as one participant after another talked about how care-giving, family leave and workplace flexibility are urgent issues that have somehow been ignored.

It’s a complaint that’s been raised repeatedly in recent months, including by the Post’s Petula Dvorak who railed against the total disregard among political leaders to acknowledge that we have a full-on childcare crisis in this country.

Now comes a new attempt to force this issue on to the stage, specifically onto to the University of Denver stage tonight during the first presidential debate.

A Denver student named Jessica Smith has launched an online petition to urge the debate’s moderator, Jim Lehrer, to ask the candidates to explain their positions on family leave, sick time and similar workplace policies.

Within hours after Smith posted the petition in late September it received dozens of signatures. By this writing, it was on its way toward gathering 5,000 supporters.

Smith comes to the cause because she has witnessed what our swiss-cheese-like workplace protections can do to parents and children. Smith said when she was 3 years old she suffered a stroke. Her mother had to give up a paycheck and jeopardize her job and health care in order to care for her daughter.

“My mom has told me how she was forced to worry about our family’s finances at a time when I was still in the hospital recovering. Hard-working Americans like my mom shouldn’t be forced to deal with this kind of financial strain when they are caring for sick loved ones. I want our next president to address this problem by supporting paid family leave and paid sick days laws…”

“Presidential candidates can’t talk about strengthening our economy without talking about putting into place these policies that working families need to keep their jobs and pay the bills,” she writes in the introduction to the petition.

A contrarian might say that Smith has a point, but our unsettled foreign policy, dismal economic situation and gaping deficit must take precedence over more mundane domestic issues. I posed this question to Smith.

“Family leave insurance and earned sick days are in themselves economic issue,” she wrote me. “Specifically, economic issues that directly affected my family and affect families all over the country. It’s especially important when the economy is weak; we need to have earned sick days and family leave insurance so that no one has to worry that they are going to be fired for staying home and taking care of a sick child like my mother was.”

Smith added: “I am not surprised the petition is so successful. I knew when we created this petition that family leave insurance and earned sick days affect so many families. If you look at all the comments people have left on the petition with their personal stories you can see these issues are directly affecting families across the country.”

What is surprising, she said, “is that neither candidate has addressed” these issues.

Smith said she has yet to hear from Lehrer. I also sent a query to the PBS NewsHour, over which Lehrer presides, and did not hear back by publication time.

Will Smith venture inside the debate hall to call out a question on the subject herself? Nope, she’ll be outside at a debate rally.

Like many of us, she’ll be watching closely and hoping the notion of family is finally addressed in a substantive way.

Do you think family-friendly policies should be given more attention in the campaigns?

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Paid sick leave ordinance means a healthy future for Seattle workers

From Real Change News, Sep 5, 2012, Vol: 19, No: 36:

As summer turns to fall, there’s a bright spot on the horizon: Paid sick days in Seattle. [Photo: Brett Davis, Flickr Creative Commons]

Seattle summers are the best. But with school having just started and fall weather and flu season around the corner, juggling work and family responsibilities will get a little more challenging. There is a bright spot, though: On Sept. 1, a new city ordinance took effect that ensures most workers in Seattle will be able to earn paid sick and safe days, which can be used to care for one’s own illness, a sick child or parent, or to deal with the effects of domestic violence.

Seattle is only the third city in the United States to implement such a measure. It will cover about 150,000 workers who, until now, haven’t had any sick leave. As advocates for the ordinance — and as working mothers with aging parents ourselves — we know the law will have a positive impact on local workers and their families. It will particularly benefit low-wage workers living paycheck-to-paycheck, for whom taking an unpaid sick day is simply not an option.

Many such people work on the front lines of food safety. The Seattle City Council heard from Tasha, a grocery clerk, who detailed the hit her family’s budget takes every time she or one of her children becomes ill, and she has to take unpaid time off. Last year, one in four grocery workers reported working sick because they didn’t have paid sick days. And more than three out of four people employed in restaurants and hotels didn’t have paid sick days.

Paid sick days are also essential for healthy kids and schools. At city council hearings, Seattle school nurse Robin Fleming described the flu sweeping through her schools, with sick children lying in her office for hours because no family member could leave work to pick them up. When parents can take time away from work to care for a sick child, it’s not only better for the child, it helps prevent the spread of disease, keeping us all healthy.

This measure also includes a “safe days” provision for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. A survivor of violence often needs time off to seek medical attention, find a safe place for family members or pursue legal remedies. Access to paid safe days is critical, because financial independence from an abuser is one of the most important ways a victim can successfully escape the relationship. Paid safe days help ensure workplaces stay safe for survivors’ co-workers, too.

Workers who already have paid leave, either sick leave or a paid time-off policy that combines sick and vacation leave, may not see much change, other than a little more flexibility. Here’s how the policy pencils out:

  • For a business with at least five full-time employees, workers earn up to five days per year.
  • For a business with between 50 to 249 full-time employees, workers earn up to seven days per year.
  • For businesses with more than 250 full-time employees, workers earn up to nine days per year.

Employees started accruing paid sick and safe days just a few days ago, based on the number of hours they work. Part-time and temporary employees, as well as undocumented workers, are covered. New businesses have two years before they need to begin providing paid leave.

The Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) is responsible for implementing and enforcing the new law. It deserves accolades, both for gathering feedback from local businesses and residents as the final regulations were written, and for reaching out in local neighborhoods to educate workers and business owners about the measure.

Business owners who have questions about implementation, and workers who believe their rights to sick and safe leave have been violated, can learn more about the new law on the city’s website (seattle.gov/civilrights/sickleave.htm) or contact the SOCR.

Janet Chung works with Legal Voice, a women’s legal advocacy nonprofit, and Gabriela Quintana works with the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce.

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Paid sick-leave ordinance means a healthy future for most Seattle workers

Via Real Change News, by Janet Chung and Gabriela Quintana:

janet chung and gabriela quintanaSeattle summers are the best. But with school having just started and fall weather and flu season around the corner, juggling work and family responsibilities will get a little more challenging. There is a bright spot, though: On Sept. 1, a new city ordinance took effect that ensures most workers in Seattle will be able to earn paid sick and safe days, which can be used to care for one’s own illness, a sick child or parent, or to deal with the effects of domestic violence.

Seattle is only the third city in the United States to implement such a measure. It will cover about 150,000 workers who, until now, haven’t had any sick leave. As advocates for the ordinance — and as working mothers with aging parents ourselves — we know the law will have a positive impact on local workers and their families. It will particularly benefit low-wage workers living paycheck-to-paycheck, for whom taking an unpaid sick day is simply not an option.

Many such people work on the front lines of food safety. The Seattle City Council heard from Tasha, a grocery clerk, who detailed the hit her family’s budget takes every time she or one of her children becomes ill, and she has to take unpaid time off. Last year, one in four grocery workers reported working sick because they didn’t have paid sick days. And more than three out of four people employed in restaurants and hotels didn’t have paid sick days.

Paid sick days are also essential for healthy kids and schools. At city council hearings, Seattle school nurse Robin Fleming described the flu sweeping through her schools, with sick children lying in her office for hours because no family member could leave work to pick them up. When parents can take time away from work to care for a sick child, it’s not only better for the child, it helps prevent the spread of disease, keeping us all healthy.

This measure also includes a “safe days” provision for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. A survivor of violence often needs time off to seek medical attention, find a safe place for family members or pursue legal remedies. Access to paid safe days is critical, because financial independence from an abuser is one of the most important ways a victim can successfully escape the relationship. Paid safe days help ensure workplaces stay safe for survivors’ co-workers, too.

Workers who already have paid leave, either sick leave or a paid time-off policy that combines sick and vacation leave, may not see much change, other than a little more flexibility. Here’s how the policy pencils out:

  • For a business with at least five full-time employees, workers earn up to five days per year.
  • For a business with between 50 to 249 full-time employees, workers earn up to seven days per year.
  • For businesses with more than 250 full-time employees, workers earn up to nine days per year.

Employees started accruing paid sick and safe days just a few days ago,  based on the number of hours they work. Part-time and temporary employees, as well as undocumented workers, are covered. New businesses have two years before they need to begin providing paid leave.

The Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) is responsible for implementing and enforcing the new law. It deserves accolades, both for gathering feedback from local businesses and residents as the final regulations were written, and for reaching out in local neighborhoods to educate workers and business owners about the measure.

Business owners who have questions about implementation, and workers who believe their rights to sick and safe leave have been violated, can learn more about the new law on the city’s website (seattle.gov/civilrights/sickleave.htm) or contact the SOCR.

Janet Chung works with Legal Voice, a women’s legal advocacy nonprofit, and Gabriela Quintana works with the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce.

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