Proponents of raising Washington’s minimum wage and expanding sick leave for low income and working families across Washington today filed a citizen initiative for the 2016 ballot. The coalition, represented by workers, union members, faith leaders and others, submitted legislation to the Secretary of State’s Office that would raise Washington’s minimum wage incrementally to $13.50 and provide opportunities to earn up to seven days of paid sick and safe leave per year for employees who currently lack that benefit through their employer.
This incremental phase-in over four years would raise the minimum wage to $11 (2017), $11.50 (2018), $12 (2019), and $13.50 (2020). It ensures that working families can earn paid sick and safe leave -‐ earning 1 hour for every 40 hours worked — so that workers can take care of themselves and their family when sick without fear of being fired or losing a day’s wage.
“This initiative will expand opportunity for tens of thousands of Washington families and low wage workers and put them on the path toward self-sufficiency,” said Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. “For many this will mean no longer choosing between rent and childcare, between food and transportation. When we raise the minimum wage, we lift people out of poverty, and reduce dependence on social services and government programs. It’s how we build a pathway to the middle class.”
The initiative was officially filed by Ariana Davis, a grocery worker from Auburn. Davis said, “Passing paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage would change my life and the lives of thousands of workers like me. It would make us healthier and more able to take care of our families and customers.”
Sharon Kitchel, a home care worker from Olympia, said, “We need this initiative to address the struggle of living day to day. Skyrocketing prices of basic needs like housing and food further strains our economy. We need to highlight the fact that workers are paid so little that too many are forced to rely on public assistance.”
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and Co-Founder of MomsRising.org [Ed. note: and EOI Board Member!] , said, “Our labor force is now 50% women for the first time in history, and moms are now 3/4 of the primary or co‐breadwinners in our nation, yet many of our public policies lag behind our modern labor force. It’s time to catch up to modern times. Raising the minimum wage and advancing earned sick days lifts women and children, families and businesses, and our local and national economies. Everyone wins.”
Advocates have until early July to submit roughly 250,000 valid signatures. The Raise Up Washington campaign, formed to support the initiative, plans to launch an ambitious grassroots signature drive.
“Across Washington, there is support and enthusiasm for increasing our minimum wage and expanding opportunity for working people,” said April Sims, Field Director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “We are excited to get started with signature gathering for this important measure.”