The following is crossposted from the Economic Opportunity Institute. (Also see, Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the FMLA but remember these is work to be done.)
OLYMPIA (Feb. 6, 2013) — The Washington State House Labor Committee heard two bills Tuesday that directly affect the economic security of working families.
One of the bills, House Bill 1457, would implement and expand Washington’s currently inactive Family and Medical Leave Insurance program. Prime sponsor Rep. Tami Green introduced the legislation: “As a mom, and a nurse, and a legislator, I see how devastating an illness in the family can be. Family and medical leave is the solution to a strong middle-class… when Washington invests in working families we have a strong record of success.”
Frank Irigon, a senior citizen, emphasized that the benefits of family and medical leave are not just about dollars and cents. “Today and every day until 2030, approximately 10,000 people will turn 65 in the United States, and as seniors we want to be able to retire with dignity, without financially-strapping our own children.”
Sarah Francis, a member of MomsRising, testified on behalf of 50,000 members in Washington state who believe “new moms and dads should be able to care for their newborns without the fear of missing payments.”
And Don Orange, owner of an auto and tire shop in Vancouver, Washington, emphasized that Family and Medical leave was the right thing to do for his employees, their families, and the community. “This is an opportunity for us. It’s not going to break our backs – a nickel here or a nickel there – but it’s absolutely the right thing to do… I look at it as an investment in the community.”
In closing, Marilyn Watkins, of the Washington Work and Family Coalition, stated that family leave should never be a matter of luck. “There is nothing more important to us than our family, and this family leave bill would invest in that. It would be good for us all.”
The other bill, House Bill 1313, would establish minimum standards for paid sick and safe leave. Prime Sponsor Rep. Laurie Jinkins introduced the legislation, saying, “families should not have to make a choice between putting food on the table and sick leave… when people cannot access sick leave, that’s the biggest way epidemics spread.”
Those who testified at the hearing estimated nearly 1 million workers in Washington are unable to take any paid sick leave. For grocery store workers, the restaurant industry, and medical professions, “it puts customers and patients at risk, as well as increases the risk of a secondary illness for workers themselves when they do not take time to recover.”
Several small business owners testified in favor of paid sick days, saying that it saves costs in the long-run by building up employee morale and loyalty. Makini Howell of Plum Bistro in Seattle said it was simply moral and humane to give workers time to recover from illness without the worry of losing their job or paycheck.