House passes minimum wage and paid sick leave bills

OLYMPIA—This afternoon the House of Representatives passed two middle-class prosperity measures that will strengthen the economy and protect working families.

“When recession hits, working families are hit the hardest.  When the economy recovers all the gains go to the wealthy few,” said Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, Chairman of the House Labor Committee. “Our economy should work for everyone, so strengthening the minimum wage and providing working families with much needed sick and safe leave are tried and true methods that will lead us in that direction.”

HB 1355, which passed on a 51-46 vote, will increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2016, $10.50 in 2017, $11 in 2018 and $12 in 2019. Then in 2020, and every year after that, the minimum wage will be adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index.

“No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, the bill’s prime sponsor. “Income inequality remains historically high making the middle class out of reach for too many hard-working Washingtonians. By rewarding an honest day’s work with a fair wage, we can create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”

The current minimum wage in Washington is $9.47. Supporters of the measure say that raising the minimum wage to $12 would boost the earnings of over 550,000 workers, which would lead to more money being spent in local communities, thus strengthening the economy, while at the same time easing the burden on taxpayer-funded services.

The second legislation approved by the House today was HB 1356, requiring employers with more than four employees to offer paid sick leave. It also provides leave for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The bill, which passed on a 51-46 vote, has a tiered system of required leave – less for smaller businesses and more for larger businesses.

“No mom or dad should be forced to choose between staying home with a sick child and putting food on the table at the end of the month. No preschool teacher or grocery store worker should be forced to choose between the threat of losing their job or going to work ill and infecting children or customers,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “Passing Sick and Safe Leave is common sense, good for public health, good for families and good for the economy. I am proud to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”

Under Jinkins’ measure, paid leave would be provided to employees for:

  • Specified medical reasons relating to the employee’s or a family member’s health.
  • Reasons permitted under existing law requiring unpaid leave for purposes related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
  • Closure of the employee’s place of business or child’s school or place of care due to specified public health emergencies.

Both pieces of legislation have been sent to the Senate for further consideration.