Family Values @ Work

Family Values @ Work Congratulates Washington’s Paid Leave Win

Family Values @ Work Congratulates Washington’s Paid Leave Win

July 1, 2017

Today’s paid family and medical leave victory is a huge win for Washington’s working families. It also sends a signal to the rest of the country that when lawmakers from across the aisle are willing to talk and listen and come to a common sense solution, families, businesses and our entire economy benefits. This progress would not have been possible without the persistence and steadfast advocacy of the broad and diverse set of organizations that make up the Washington Work and Family Coalition. Family Values @ Work and our 23 other state coalitions congratulate our partners in Washington.

Today, Washington state becomes the 6th in the country to pass a strong family and medical leave insurance law – one that meets our “triple A” rating by providing adequate time for caregiving, makes taking the leave affordable, especially for low-wage workers, and is accessible to all workers. In just over one year, Washington, New York and Washington DC have joined California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, doubling the number of states that have passed paid family and medical leave.

Legislature Passes Paid Family and Medical Leave Plan for Washington’s Working Families
Long-time paid leave advocates led by
Washington Work and Family Coalition are celebrating
a historic new law that will provide paid family and medical leave.


Tonight, the Washington Legislature passed SB 5975 on a strong bipartisan vote, sending a paid family and medical leave program for Washington families to the governor’s desk. Beginning in 2020, Washington workers will be able to take paid time off for the birth or adoption of a new child, for the care for an ill family member, when a family member is deployed or wounded in military service, or for their own serious health condition. This groundbreaking policy is the result of many months of negotiation by the Washington Work and Family Coalition, statewide business associations and lawmakers from both parties.

This paid leave program provides coverage for everyone who worked at least 820 hours during the previous year and will be funded by contributions from both employers and employees — about $2.62 per week for the average worker and $1.54 for their employer.

“After more than a decade, I’m excited that we will finally have paid family and medical leave for all Washington workers and families,” said Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, which convenes the WA Work and Family Coalition. “It’s been a pleasure to work with legislators from both parties, our coalition partners, and colleagues in the business community to work out the final details of a program that works for workers and business. We are especially grateful to Senator Keiser, Representative Robinson and Senator Fain for their leadership on this issue. Together we crafted a plan that is accessible to workers of every income level and industry, provides sufficient leave to really improve health outcomes, and works for businesses of all sizes.”

“This new law is an affordable and predictable solution to providing an important benefit for life’s emergencies,” said Sara Reilly, co-owner of Darby’s Café and Three Magnets Brewing Co. in Olympia. “Small businesses like ours couldn’t afford paying for paid family and medical leave entirely on our own, though I know how important that time off is, especially after having cared for my mother through her last days. This is a good approach that’s fair to everyone.

Paid family and medical leave insurance will provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for the birth or adoption of a new child, to care for a seriously ill loved one, or to deal with exigencies of a family member’s military deployment. It also provides up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave for a worker’s own serious health condition – with a combined annual cap of 16 total weeks of paid leave. Individuals with pregnancy-related complications may take an additional two weeks of medical leave and have an increased annual cap of 18 weeks.

The WA Work and Family Coalition worked with Senator Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) and Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett) to develop legislation that was introduced in early January (SB5032/HB1116). Senator Joe Fain (R-Auburn) introduced a separate paid leave proposal, SB5149. Given the clear popularity of the issue among voters and the passage last November of Initiative 1433, which raised the minimum wage and established paid sick days standards statewide, the Association of Washington Business and other business groups agreed to come to the table with legislators from both parties and WWFC members. Senate Bill 5975 represents the consensus reached by that table after nearly three months of discussion.

“Our company has grown from a small start-up to a medium-sized company,” said Sarah Bird, CEO of Moz. “We’ve gone through good times and tough times, but the constant has been that we believe in supporting our workers so they have strong, healthy families. This proposal will allow businesses large and small to afford providing critical benefits to their workers.”

“As a medical professional, I know the benefits of paid family and medical leave,” said Edie Lang, MD, a family physician in Seattle. “I’ve seen things go really well for new families, and I’ve seen things go really poorly. Far too many of the mothers I work with go back to work before they should – not because they want to, but because they have to. This new law will help.”

“When my son Calvin was born, my husband and I both worked at a pizza restaurant without any paid leave,” said Christina Pedersen, a MomsRising member from Marysville. “I tried to work through the end of my pregnancy, despite how hard it was to be around those hot ovens. Then I had an emergency C-section. My husband could only take a few days off, so I was left on my own to recover from major surgery and care for our newborn. It was such a hard time. Paid family and medical leave would have changed everything for us.”


About the Washington Work and Family Coalition
The Washington Work and Family Coalition is proudly supported by individuals, small business owners, and community, labor, faith, senior, women’s, and other grassroots organizations. Learn more here.

Contact: Jack Sorensen, WA Work and Family Coalition