House action on wages, sick days applauded


House Speaker Frank Chopp and Rep. Laurie Jinkins meet with some low-wage workers who lack paid sick leave before Tuesday’s votes.

OLYMPIA (March 4, 2015) — Following are some reactions to Tuesday’s House passage of legislation to increase the minimum wage to $12 over four years (HB 1355) and to allow all workers in the state to earn paid sick leave (HB 1356) from low-wage workers and the bills’ supporters and sponsors.

June Conklin, an Olympia caregiver who has worked in the field for more than 30 years, works additional jobs to supplement her income as a caregiver:

“I make more than the current minimum wage but still qualify for food stamps and other public assistance. There are too many people like me that just can’t make ends meet unless we increase the minimum wage closer to a living wage.”

Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO:

“The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and its 400,000 members want to thank House Democrats for choosing to cover 1 million workers in Washington state with Paid Safe and Sick Leave benefits and for choosing to raise the wages of hundreds of thousands workers and their families through the passage of HB 1355 and HB 1356. When that many individuals and their families are left without basic workplace benefits and  inadequate wages the market for labor is broken. House Democrats made a societal choice of great consequence since far too few individual employers were making the right choices.”

Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle), prime sponsor of HB 1355:

“No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. Income inequality remains historically high making the middle class out of reach for too many hard-working Washingtonians. By rewarding an honest day’s work with a fair wage, we can create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”

Linda Lee of Vancouver, a caregiver for more than a quarter century who must rely on food stamps:

“Like an estimated one million Washingtonians, I cannot afford to take time off when I’m sick, and I’m currently working with a sore knee and would recover much more quickly if I could take time off… The working poor in our state don’t have enough purchasing power to provide for their families or stimulate our economy. In Clark County a full-time worker would need to earn more that $25 an hour to support a family of three. Gradually raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour would move us in the right direction and help improve the lives of millions of Washingtonians.”

Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), prime sponsor of HB 1356:

“No mom or dad should be forced to choose between staying home with a sick child and putting food on the table at the end of the month. No preschool teacher or grocery store worker should be forced to choose between the threat of losing their job or going to work ill and infecting children or customers. Passing Sick and Safe Leave is common sense, good for public health, good for families and good for the economy.”

Demetrius Bolden, a Safeway employee in Federal Way:

“No one wants to be the checker in the check stand coughing on people’s food. Paid sick leave will mean we will be able to stay home and get better when we are sick.”

Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett), Chairman of the House Labor Committee:

“When recession hits, working families are hit the hardest. When the economy recovers all the gains go to the wealthy few. Our economy should work for everyone, so strengthening the minimum wage and providing working families with much needed sick and safe leave are tried and true methods that will lead us in that direction.”

Lily, a single mother of three boys who has one job as a homecare workers and a second job at Chuck E. Cheese:

“It’s hard for me to let my youngest know that he can’t have that second glass of milk because he has already had one today. And to tell him that it has to last the week. And then to tell the oldest that you drank too much milk today. Stop drinking the milk and eating the cereal. It’s hard to have to tell your kids they can’t have the food that they need. I feel ashamed. It’s not fair and it’s not right.”

Sen. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle), prime sponsor of HB 1355’s companion bill in the Senate:

“It was a hard-won victory today in the House, and we know it is going to be much harder to get this through the Senate. But I think we can do it. I think we can do it because I believe there are people on both sides of the aisle who know that this is a reasonable proposal that will help minimum wage workers across the state, in every district.

“Minimum wage earners — increasingly adults and particularly women with children — deserve to see their hard work rewarded with fair pay. I look forward to this bill going through the legislative process and being signed into law.”

Sen. Cyrus Habib (D-Kirkland), prime sponsor of HB 1356’s companion bill in the Senate:

“For many in our state, paid sick leave is something we take for granted, and yet many hard-working Washingtonians are forced to choose between their health or safety on one hand, and their basic livelihood on the other.

“I couldn’t be happier that the House today took bold action to pass this important public policy, and I urge the Senate Majority to help move it quickly to the Governor’s desk.”

Kenny James of OUR Walmart:

“It was an honor to represent OUR Walmart and all Walmart associates during this historic moment when the Washington State House of Representatives passed an increase to our minimum wage and mandatory paid sick leave. This builds on Walmart’s recent announcement to increase their minimum wage to $9 and then $10 next year as well as enable our colleagues to use their sick leave on their first day.

“We are definitely pleased, that Walmart has taken a step in the right direction, and we are hopeful that they will continue to address our concerns, as we strive to make our workplace better, increasing the quality of our lives, which, in turn creates a wonderful shopping experience for our customers.”

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island):

“These common sense ideas coming over from the House will make life better for working families and benefit our entire economy – including those at the very top. These ideas must have their day in the Senate to create an economy that benefits everyone, not just a few.

“There’s no starker contrast between Democrats and Republicans than on these issues. At the same time Democrats took action to make things better for working families, Republicans continue to promote policies that make the gap between the rich and the rest of us even wider.”

U.S. Senator Patty Murray:

“We need to make sure our government and our economy are working for all families, not just the wealthiest few, so I was proud to see the Washington House of Representatives pass bills to increase the minimum wage and to guarantee paid sick leave so parents can care for themselves and their loved ones without losing a day’s pay, or worse, losing their job. Washington state is leading the country in so many ways, and I am fighting in the other Washington for federal policies to increase wages and economic security and build on the work being done back in our state to help families and the economy.”

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