SEATTLE – As Washington kids head back to school, educators, parents and children’s health experts gathered on Thursday to announce their support for the Yes on 1433 campaign, which would allow more than 1 million Washington workers to earn paid sick leave. According the the group, when parents don’t have access to paid sick leave it impacts the health and educational outcomes of children.
Initiative 1433, which will appear on the November ballot, would also raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years and has received key endorsements from the Children’s Alliance, the Washington Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers - Washington and Equity in Education Coalition.
"Initiative 1433 is good for Washington’s kids. Good jobs allow parents to look after a child when he or she is too sick for school. No parent should have to choose between a day’s pay and the needs of a sick child,” said Paola Maranan, executive director for the Children’s Alliance.
Healthy children have the best opportunity to achieve in school. When kids have to go to school sick because their parents can’t afford to stay home, they can fall behind and even pass their illnesses to other children and teachers.
“I’ve worked as a school nurse for more than 28 years, and I’ve seen my fair share of flu seasons,” said Terri Helm-Remund, a school nurse and former president of the School Nurses’ Organization of Washington. “I can tell you that one of the biggest factors in the rate of transmission is sick kids not being able to stay home. Sick kids can’t learn, and common-sense policies like allowing parents to earn paid sick leave with Initiative 1433 will help them succeed.”
Some Washington cities — like Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane — have already passed local paid sick leave ordinances, but there are hundreds of thousands of children in the rest of the state living in low-income families, many of whom are unable to earn a single day of paid sick leave. And Washington’s children of color are more likely to experience poverty and live in families where parents don’t have paid sick leave, since many of the adults in their households have fewer opportunities to work in good jobs with benefits.
“I see parents every day who struggle and sacrifice so their kids can thrive and learn,” said Seattle mother Sebrena Burr. “All kids are full of potential — poverty, inequality and racism all block kids’ potential. When we create healthy communities and economic opportunity with Initiative 1433, we help unlock kids’ potential. There are about 441,000 children living in low-income families who are heading back to schools outside of Seattle and Tacoma — they need their parents to be able to afford to take a day off and care for them.”
Educators and health experts also stressed the important public health and safety impacts of Initiative 1433, backed up by a report released the other week that proves paid sick leave policies in cities across the nation are working to reduce flu transmission rates. According to the report, flu rates dropped by an average of 5 percent in cities after they passed policies allowing all workers to earn paid sick leave.
“Even if you’re a parent who has paid sick leave, passing Initiative 1433 should still matter to you,” said Patricia Benavidez, a retired physical education teacher of 32 years. “It’s just common-sense that no one should have to choose between staying home to care of themselves or their sick child and losing a paycheck. When other parents can’t earn paid sick leave, it puts all of our families at risk.”
“As a pediatrician, I see the impact of parents having to choose between caring for a sick child and preserving a job that doesn't allow them to earn paid sick leave,” said Dr. Lelach Rave, a pediatrician at the Everett Clinic in Mukilteo. “What starts as a simple illness can turn into something much more serious if a parent cannot take time off of work to get their child the care she needs. Passing paid sick leave though Initiative 1433 will improve opportunities for our children to thrive and help keep our communities healthy.”
Initiative 1433 would also have a disproportionate impact on Washington’s working mothers, who are the least likely to have paid sick leave but 10 times more likely to stay home with a sick child than their male partners.
Mariah Mitchell, a parent in Auburn, also planned on attending Thursday’s event but was unable to. Like many hard-working parents, she couldn’t afford to miss a shift of work. She provided the following statement: “My daughter means the world to me. If she is sick, I want to be there to take care of her. Every parent knows that preschoolers get sick on their own schedule, and there is no way we’ll get through a whole year without her getting too sick to go to preschool. When that happens, at best I will lose income that we need to make ends meet, and at worse, I could lose my job.”
Mariah recently started a new job and has no paid sick days for the first year.
About Raise Up Washington
Raise Up Washington is the coalition of workers, unions, faith leaders, businesses and community organizations working to pass Initiative 1433 this November, which would raise the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 over four years and give every Washington worker the opportunity to earn paid sick and safe leave.