Legal Voice has long advocated for all women to have access to the economic security they and their families deserve. Nearly 15 years ago, we helped pass the Washington Family Care Act, which allows a worker who receives paid sick days to use that leave to care for her child, her spouse, or another family member. This was a great victory, except for one detail: there was no law that required employers to provide paid sick leave to workers.
And there still isn’t one. For years we have worked with our allies to urge the Washington Legislature to create a statewide standard for paid sick and safe days so that all workers can take time to care for themselves or their families when experiencing illness or violence. However, while cities including Seattle, Sea-Tac, Tacoma, and Spokane have passed paid sick and safe leave laws, efforts to establish a statewide law have thus far been unsuccessful.
That is why our partners at Raise Up Washington are bringing the issue to those most impacted: Washington citizens. The Raise Up Washington ballot initiative (I-1433) would set a statewide standard for paid sick and safe leave, providing opportunities to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year for employees who currently lack that benefit through their employer. If this initiative passes, all workers will be able to take paid leave when they are ill, need to care for a family member, or need to cope with the effects of intimate partner violence.
Further, the initiative aims to raise Washington’s minimum wage to $13.50 (incrementally by 2020), which would help working women, who comprise the majority of workers in minimum wage and tipped jobs. For a full-time worker who currently earns $10 per hour, an hourly increase to $13.50 would mean an additional $607 per month to spend on rent, food, child care, or to save for the future.
Economic justice cuts to the core of every aspect of a woman’s life—from the right to earn a living wage, to the power to escape abuse and attain financial independence, to the ability to care for a sick child or family member without the fear of lost wages.
It’s time for economic justice. It’s time to Raise Up Washington.