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New year brings family-friendly policies

OLYMPIA (Jan. 2, 2019) — Washington’s lowest-paid workers just got a raise, and all employers and employees in the state have begun building a groundbreaking paid family and medical leave program, thanks to state laws that took effect on New Years Day. The changes were the result of an initiative and legislation strongly supported by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, plus many of its affiliated unions and community partners.

The state minimum wage has risen to $12/hour, a 50-cent increase, thanks to passage in 2016 of the labor-backed Initiative 1433. In 2020, that wage will rise again to $13.50/hour and thereafter be adjusted annually for inflation. I-1433 also allowed all workers in Washington to earn paid sick leave benefits, which has been in effect for one year now.

The cities of SeaTac, Seattle, and Tacoma have their own minimum wage rates. In SeaTac, the nation’s first-ever $15/hour “living wage” ordinance approved in 2013 continues to be adjusted for inflation, and on Tuesday rose to $16.09/hour. In Seattle, companies with more than 500 employees must pay $16/hour and smaller companies must pay $15/hour, unless they pay at least $3/hour toward medical benefits, in which case the minimum pay is $12/hour. In Tacoma, the new minimum wage that took effect Tuesday is $12.35/hour.

If your employer is not paying the proper minimum wage, or are being denied rest breaks or paid sick leave, you can file a Workplace Rights Complaint with the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). If you work in SeaTac, Seattle or Tacoma, follow those links for information on how to file a complaint. All such complaints are investigated. I-1433 also included language that protects employees from retaliation when exercising their rights under the Minimum Wage Requirements and Labor Standards Act. Learn more here.

Also Tuesday, the state began building its Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Starting in 2020, most employees will receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child, in case of an employee’s or close family member’s serious health condition, or when a family member is deployed or injured in the military. Most employees using the program will receive up to 90 percent of their wages up to $1,000 per week during their leave.

Paid Family and Medical Leave is the result of a law was passed in 2017 with labor and bipartisan support and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

This program is financed by premiums that all Washington employers and employees began paying Tuesday. Premiums of 0.4 percent of wages will be collected, with 63 percent paid by employees and 37 percent paid by employers. According to the state Employment Security Department, an employee making $50,000 a year will pay about $2.44 a week, while their employer would pay about $1.41 a week.

Learn more about the program here.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!