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WA Women at White House "Working Family Summit"

IMAGE: Today's families juggle a lot, from jobs to kids to aging parents. At the White House Summit on Working Families, the focus is on workplace policies that can encourage economic stability. CREDIT: JackF/iStockphoto.com.
IMAGE: Today's families juggle a lot, from jobs to kids to aging parents. At the White House Summit on Working Families, the focus is on workplace policies that can encourage economic stability. CREDIT: JackF/iStockphoto.com.
June 23, 2014

SEATTLE - The ability to take a day off when one is sick or caring for a loved one isn't part of many people's job benefits. It's even more rare to be paid for it.

On Monday, the importance of paid sick days and family leave is front and center in Washington, D.C., at the White House Summit on Working Families.

Amanda DeShazo, a retail worker and organizer for the Healthy Tacoma campaign, is among the attendees. DeShazo says she realized the importance of paid time off when her appendix ruptured. She had no sick days and lots of bills, including college tuition, to pay.

"I want to share my story about how paid sick-leave would really benefit people in my town," said DeShazo. "Not just here, but all over the states. A lot of people still have the issue of going to work sick or staying home, and being able to make a living."

The Economic Opportunity Institute in Seattle estimates almost 1 million Washington workers don't have paid sick leave.

Another big topic at the summit is how to ensure equal-pay protections for women. In Washington, a woman earns, on average, 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Overall, Washington state gets a 'B' grade in a new national report on family-friendly workplace policies by the National Partnership for Women and Families.

But according to Tatsuko Go Hollo, policy associate at the Economic Opportunity Institute, the state doesn't deserve such a high mark. The Legislature created a Family Medical Leave Insurance plan in 2007, but hasn't funded it. She said today's families are juggling a lot, and employers need to acknowledge it and work with them.

"Our workforce has changed over the decades," said Go Hollo. "It's time that our workplace policies catch up. If we're going to get our economy back on track, that starts with policies that value families at work, and help families maintain financial stability."

Some employers are also part of the Washington Work and Family Coalition visiting the nation's capital this week. Their message is that giving their workers more flexibility improves loyalty and morale, helps strengthen their communities' economy, and hasn't hurt their bottom line.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA