Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Sells’ e-newsletter for Feb. 8: Equal Pay & Free to Finish College

Raising Wages & Treatment of Women in the Workplace

This week the House passed two important bills to make sure that working women get a fair shake – the Equal Pay Opportunity Act and the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act.

Decades ago Washington led the nation by passing equal pay legislation. And then we stopped and we haven’t updated it since. Since then women have consistently failed to earn as much as men, estimated at 79 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Median Earnings

One of the biggest reasons women make less than men is because of the culture of secrecy surrounding salaries. Employees are often discouraged or even banned by federal law, from discussing their wages with co-workers. But Washington House Democrats have a solution.

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act would allow employees to freely discuss wages, without fear of retaliation from employers.

Equal pay isn’t the only challenge women face at work. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would make sure employers provide appropriate accommodations to expectant moms. Simple changes like allowing cashiers to sit or extra bathroom breaks, can allow a woman to safely work longer into her pregnancy and have healthier babies in more financially secure homes.

Today, women are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of households with children. 71 percent of mothers with children at home – work. Yet women and their families are taking home smaller paychecks and often times are not even aware because they don’t have the freedom to discuss their own pay.

Sells on equal payEnsuring equal pay for equal work will help families pay the bills. It will help them thrive – and all we have to do is make sure they’re paid what they’re due.

As I listened to arguments on the House floor I was reminded of a conversation with my granddaughter. I had just finished the fifth consecutive reading of her favorite book and asked if she would read it to me. Her response, “Grandpa I can’t read – yet”. “Yet” being the operative word. She is beginning to understand her own possibilities. I want this solved before she is done grappling with those possibilities.


Washington Free to Finish College Program

Sometimes hardworking students and families have to make the tough choice between putting food on the table and finishing that last quarter of school. These folks are no less worthy or deserving of a degree, they just need some help. Fortunately, the Washington Free to Finish College Program will provide the help that these students need to finish up.

Free to Finish College will allow some former students who had to interrupt their educations to re-enroll in college and finish their degrees tuition free.

The bill will cover Washington students who are not currently enrolled and have not been enrolled for the last three years, and are 15 credits – about one quarter – away from completing their degree or certificate. Eligible students will receive state grants to cover tuition and fees.

free to finish

At the press announcement, Central Washington University President James L. Gaudino had this to say “with just a little state support, we can change the lives of thousands of students and help them finish a college degree.”

If the bill passes, students at public universities and community colleges will now be able to see their hard work pay off.


As always, please continue keeping in touch with your feedback, questions, and ideas.