For a PDF of this report, click here.

EOI Policy Director Marilyn Watkins

EOI Policy Director Marilyn Watkins

Paid family and medical leave has become a top-tier policy issue. Over the past several years, a number of high-profile corporations have announced new and expanded paid parental leave programs. However, access to paid family leave remains primarily available to the already privileged. In 2017, only 13 percent of private sector employees had access to paid family leave, including 24 percent of the most highly paid tenth, but only 4 percent of the lowest paid tenth.[1] If left solely to private sector initiative, most U.S. workers will continue to lack access to extended paid leaves to care for a new child or deal with serious health conditions. Workers who already face obstacles to achieving and maintaining good health and economy security will largely be left behind, including those in smaller companies, lower-income employees, workers of color, and gig economy workers.

Universal public paid family and medical leave insurance programs that are thoughtfully designed to achieve equitable outcomes are the only way to assure that:

  • Every child has the life-long advantages of better health and access to opportunity that come from parental nurture and care during the first formative months of life;
  • Family members have adequate support during health crises;
  • Workers are able to fully recover from serious health conditions before returning to work;
  • Individuals and families are able to maintain economic stability through major life and health events.

While simple in concept, crafting a program that will meet the needs of today’s diverse workers, families, and businesses requires paying attention to policy details and understanding the interaction and consequences of program elements.

Publicly provided paid family and medical leave is popular with voters nationwide. Five states and the District of Columbia have now adopted comprehensive programs, and more state legislatures and members of Congress are putting forward proposals. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York were able to add family leave to temporary disability insurance programs that have been in place since the 1940s. The extensive experience with programs in these states provides a base of research on what program elements work well and where there are gaps in access. Washington is the most recent state to adopt a paid family and medical leave (PFML) program, and the first to create a program from the ground up in modern times.

Most other states, like Washington, will be starting from scratch and can benefit from the experience of Washington’s Work and Family Coalition, which researched and grappled with the implications of policy details with multiple stakeholders over a number of years. Leading up to the passage of PFML by Washington’s legislature in 2017, the coalition established core principles to guide policy development. These were critical both to shaping the coalition’s updated proposal that was introduced in January 2017, and to keeping the focus on desired outcomes during negotiations that resulted in the final bill which passed on June 30, 2017.[2]

For Washington’s Work and Family Coalition, it was critical that the program:

  • Be universal – rooted in a state-administered social insurance program covering the entire workforce.
  • Ensure every child has a solid foundation and support healthier outcomes across the lifespan – by providing sufficient length of both family and medical leave for both routine and complex situations.
  • Promote family economic security across income levels, race, and gender – by providing progressive and sufficiently high benefits, with close to full wage replacement for lower-income workers, covering a wide range of family types and needs, and building in ongoing community input, outreach, and evaluation.
  • Be designed for the 21st-century workforce – by providing full portability between jobs, including every sector and employer, and being accessible to self-employed and “gig” workers.
  • Support thriving businesses – by keeping the system as simple and low cost as possible for both employees and employers, and considering specific challenges that might be faced by small businesses.
  • Minimize cost and complexity – by relying to the extent possible on data already being collected by state agencies and definitions already in broad use.

The policy that Washington adopted is a strong one, based on public health research, learnings from other state programs, and community input. But it is not perfect. The discussion below points to best current practices and options to consider in designing a new program.

The Limits of the Family and Medical Leave Act in Designing a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

Since 1993, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has provided the basic framework for family and medical leave for workers in the U.S. It provides up to twelve weeks annually of unpaid job-protected leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member, for the worker’s own serious health condition, or for exigencies related to a family member’s military service. Between 50 percent and 60 percent of US workers are covered by FMLA protections – those in companies with at least 50 employees who have been with their employer at least a full year and worked at least 1,250 hours for that employer in the previous year. Some people do get pay or additional leave through voluntary employer-provided or negotiated benefits or through the disability/family leave programs provided in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

FMLA is useful to new PFML programs in identifying the types of situations that should at a minimum be covered. FMLA also provides a definition of serious health condition that is widely understood. Larger employers are familiar with that standard, and health care providers across the U.S. are accustomed to certifying when conditions meet the criteria. FMLA also has the value of being gender neutral, especially in parental leave, which is equally accessible to all working parents.

Beyond those uses, however, FMLA is too limiting as a starting point for program development. It was first introduced in Congress in 1984,[3] as part of the first wave of policy proposals responding to the entry of large numbers of white middle class women into the paid workforce – joining women of color, white working class women, and men who had long participated. The FMLA was an important step forward at the time, but it does not cover a significant percentage of workers, includes too narrow a definition of family, and provides too little leave for common situations. Perhaps most problematic for today’s mobile workforce, it is conceptually based on the employee-employer relationship. That tie is becoming increasingly tenuous in the modern economy and leaves out far too many members of the workforce and their families.

FMLA components Useful for PFMLI? Considerations
Eligibility through employer size and attachment? No Eligibility should be based on workforce attachment to promote portability and inclusion.
Covered conditions   Yes Programs should at a minimum include leave for:

·         Parents of newborn or newly placed adoptive and foster children;

·         Workers caring for family members with serious health conditions;

·         Workers’ own serious health conditions;

·         Exigencies related to a family member’s military deployment.

Definition of serious health condition   Yes Widely understood by employers and health care providers.
Definition of family No Too limited for the real world of diverse family structures.
Limit of 12 weeks No Family leave should be in addition  to disability leave, and both should be a minimum of 12 weeks:

·         Pregnancy complications can deplete leave prior to a baby’s birth;

·         Medical science supports longer periods of parental leaves and breastfeeding when possible of at least 6 months;

·         Some serious health conditions take longer than 12 weeks for full recovery;

·         Every adopted state program provides for longer leaves (maximums range from 18 to 52 weeks of combined disability/medical and family leave).

Inclusivity in Today’s – and Tomorrow’s – Economy

Every baby deserves to get the best possible start in life – which in most cases means extended time at home with parents during at least the first six months to year of life. Children placed with new families for adoption or foster care also need a period of adjustment that requires intensive time with parents for emotional bonding, medical appointments, and settling into new schools or childcare settings. Elders and other family members need the support of loved ones when critically ill or on their journey towards death. Cancer, serious injuries, and other major health events can happen to anyone unexpectedly.

Most people will need access to extended time away from work to deal with situations such as these a few times during their working careers. In an economy where most households depend on regular earnings from work to cover basic necessities, everyone needs access to paid family and medical leave to avoid financial calamity. Bouts of economic insecurity and poverty can have dire, long-term consequences on health and access to opportunity for individuals and families, especially children.[4] Well-designed PFML programs will not only help individual families thrive, but improve business and community health and reduce public costs.[5]

Establishing PFML as a state- or federally-run social insurance program is the only way to assure coverage in every sector and for every type of worker, provide portability between employers and during brief periods between jobs, keep costs affordable for small employers and lower income workers, and offer benefits to the growing numbers of self-employed and contract workers. Currently California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington State, and the District of Columbia have established or approved state-run insurance pools with benefits financed through small payroll premiums. Rhode Island requires all private sector employers to participate in its program. The other state programs allow employers to opt out of the state insurance fund if they provide equal or better benefits to the state program, either themselves or through a private insurer. Those states do retain oversight to insure that employer-provided plans fully meet the state standards. However, allowing employer opt outs increases the risk that vulnerable workers will not receive benefits to which they are entitled and also increases costs – as with any insurance system, PFML programs will cost the least when everyone is in the same risk pool.

Establishing eligibility through attachment to the workforce – not a particular employer – is the only way to assure coverage across diverse sectors and communities. In some sectors, people frequently move from employer to employer and may experience periods of unemployment between jobs, for example, in construction and agriculture. Some people hold two or more jobs. Today’s workforce overall is mobile, with median job tenure under three years for workers less than 35 years old.[6]

Existing programs have taken different approaches. California, which has the longest-standing combined disability and paid family leave program, sets a minimal eligibility threshold of $300 earned in the qualifying period, meaning almost everyone with recent work history is eligible when they need benefits. At the other extreme, New York’s paid family leave program which began in 2018 requires 26 consecutive weeks and a minimum number of hours with the current employer, or 175 days of work with the current employer for part-timers – and if someone changes jobs, the eligibility clock starts over.[7] This barrier means that some people will find themselves ineligible when they need family leave. New York’s disability insurance program sets a lower threshold of four consecutive weeks with an employer, and people retain eligibility when they change jobs.

Washington’s new program uses a threshold of 820 hours worked for any employer over four of the past five completed quarters, a compromise threshold well above the 340 hours advocates originally proposed as a more inclusive standard.

Allowing self-employed and contract workers to opt in – From sole proprietors of thriving small businesses to people who take app-based gigs as a second job, self-employment and contract work impact significant and growing numbers of households across diverse communities and sectors. Including these workers and families in PFML is critical to achieving universal coverage and meeting public health and equity goals. California, New York, and Washington programs allow for self-employed people to opt in.

Universality – Policy Options Best Practice Considerations
State-administered social insurance?   Yes Which department is best positioned to:

·         collect premiums and data,

·         assess eligibility and benefit amounts,

·         pay benefits

Employer-provided plan option? No Separate employer plans increase costs in the state plan and may reduce access to leave for vulnerable workers.

Minimum conditions if employer-provided plans included:

·         assure meet or exceed state standards

·         require proof of fiscal soundness

·         provide seamless portability

·         retain state oversight

Additional provisions to consider:

·         Allow employees of firms that provide their own plans to opt into the state plan

·         Require an employee vote to approve an employer plan

Eligibility through workforce attachment?   Yes ·         Does state collect data on hours worked (more fair for low wage workers) or only on wages?

·         What level of hours or wages includes workers across a broad range of sectors and communities

Attachment to a particular employer required?  No Eliminates portability and excludes too many

 

Self-employed opt in?   Yes ·         What minimum enrollment period is required to prevent “cherry picking”?

·         How will hours and wages be determined?

·         What are effective outreach strategies for this population?

Equitable Access

Lack of paid leave exacerbates income insecurity, health disparities, and reduced opportunities for lower-wage workers, communities of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ workers. PFML programs can promote better health outcomes, economic resiliency, and access to opportunity for these and other vulnerable communities if the programs are thoughtfully designed to promote equitable access. A poorly designed program that requires low-income and other particular categories of workers to pay in but is structured so that they are unlikely to be able to use it, on the other hand, further exacerbates inequity.

Progressive benefits – Historically, state programs replaced a fixed percentage of a worker’s income, between 50 percent and 66 percent, up to a weekly maximum. This system pushes low- and moderate-income workers back to work sooner than might be optimum for health outcomes, in using both disability and family leave. A flat percentage benefit is particularly unfair for lower wage households when employees are paying all or most of the premiums, because some would be paying in but not able to afford to take benefits. California raised its benefit level in 2018 from a flat 55 percent to 70 percent for lower-wage workers and 60 percent for others. The two newest systems in the District of Columbia and Washington State have established much more progressive benefit formulas, with lower-wage workers receiving 90 percent and the wage replacement rate gradually declining as earnings rise.

Family benefits – Current state programs all base benefits on some percentage of a worker’s usual wage, regardless of the number of dependent family members. Social Security and some state Workers’ Compensation systems provide additional benefits based on the number of dependents.

Weekly maximum benefit – If the maximum weekly benefit is too low, middle income workers will be pushed to return to work too early. Families are also likely to make the rational decision to keep the more highly paid members at work while the lower earning members care for new babies or seriously ill family members. Given the persistent gender wage gap, a lower maximum weekly benefit will reduce men’s use of family leave, perpetuating gender inequality.

Too high a maximum, on the other hand, could raise the costs of the program for everyone, including low-wage workers and small businesses who gain nothing from that extra cost.

Job protection – The same vulnerable workers who most benefit from progressive benefits also can be afraid to take leaves without a legal guarantee that they will have a job to go back to. Highly paid workers in high demand occupations have less to fear. While the federal FMLA would protect over half of workers for most PFML leave purposes, over 40 percent of workers are not covered by the FMLA. Without employment protections, PFML programs will not be fully equitable. Rhode Island and New York included job protection for all workers eligible for the family leave portions for their programs, but Rhode Island only provides four weeks of family leave and New York requires at least twenty-six consecutive weeks with the current employer to even be eligible for benefits. Washington’s Work and Family Coalition proposed separating job protection and program eligibility in order to provide longer leaves and near universality. The Coalition’s initial proposal established 340 hours of work in the previous year for program eligibility, with job protection extended to those in companies with eight or more employees after six months on the job. However, the final negotiated policy provided little additional job protection beyond FMLA.

Equitable Access Policy Options Best Practice Considerations
Progressive benefits   Yes Benefit formulas should:

·         Enable people of all income levels to be able to fully use benefits for qualifying conditions;

·         Avoid jumps or dips in benefit levels with small changes in income.

Maximum weekly benefit  State average weekly wage or similar If maximum weekly benefit is too low:

·         Moderate-wage employees will be disadvantanged;

·         The higher wage earner in couples will be less likely to take leave. With the gender wage gap, this will exacerbate gender inequities.

·         Too high a maximum will raise the cost for lower-wage workers.

Job protection   Yes ·         How to best balance equitable access, sufficient leave lengths, and small business success?

·         Should eligibility for benefits and job protection use separate criteria?

Providing Enough Leave

The long-standing temporary disability insurance programs in California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Hawaii provide 26 to 52 weeks of leave for the worker’s own health condition, including pregnancy and childbirth-related disabilities. All but Hawaii have added family leave to these underlying programs. New Jersey provides 6 weeks of family leave in addition to 26 of disability leave, for a potential total of 32 weeks in a year. In New York, Rhode Island, and effectively California, family leave does not add to the total leave available in a 12 month period. Washington’s system provides 12 weeks each of disability and family leave, with a combined total limit of 16 weeks in a year plus an additional 2 weeks for a pregnancy-related complication.

Childbirth is the most frequent reason people take both disability and family leave in the same year. Existing programs typically provide 6 to 10 weeks of disability leave for an uncomplicated pregnancy and recovery from childbirth, with many birth mothers then taking all or most of the family leave available. But complications can require weeks or months of bedrest prior to the birth and/or much longer recovery periods after delivery. Regardless of how much disability leave someone needs for pregnancy and childbirth, the child still needs parental bonding and nurture. Return to work is a common reason women stop or do not initiate breastfeeding. In addition, women with adequate paid maternity leave are more likely to be employed and for higher wages a year following childbirth.

Cancer treatments, recovery from surgery, and other illnesses and injuries can require extensive time away from work. Moreover, a worker and a family member could well experience serious health challenges in the same year.

The vast majority of workers won’t need any PFML in any given year, and among those who do, many won’t require the full length of leave. But for those who need leaves for complex or multiple situations, having a sufficiently generous and flexible system will make a world of difference for family health and economic stability in the long run.

Keeping Costs and Administrative Burden Low

Designing a system requires finding the right balance among total cost, the extent of benefits, effective administration and outreach. Design decisions can mitigate cost and promote simplicity for businesses and workers.

Who pays premiums – Sharing premiums between workers and employers is one way to mitigate costs for both. States have made different decisions about who pays. In California and Rhode Island, workers pay the full costs. In DC, employers pay the full cost. In New York, New Jersey and Washington, employers and employees share the costs of the disability portion of the programs and employees pay for the family leave portion. Employers and employees also share the cost in Hawaii’s disability program. Employers should always have the option of paying the full premium, either as a voluntary or collectively bargained benefit.

Wage base – Ensuring that premiums are assessed on all or most wages will lower costs for the vast majority of workers and small businesses and promote overall equity. This issue is particularly important given the continued growth in income inequality. Washington uses the Social Security wage base ($128,400 in 2018). New Jersey has the lowest wage base aligned with its unemployment insurance system, $33,700 in 2018.

Aligning with existing state data collection and insurance systems – States already collect quarterly data on employment, individual wages, and in some cases, individual hours worked. They already run unemployment, workers compensation, and other insurance systems. Making use of existing data to establish eligibility, and/or requiring employers to report additional necessary data in an aligned fashion will reduce administrative costs for both employers and the paid leave agency. On the other hand, requiring employers to provide additional data on a short timeline when someone applies for benefits in order to establish eligibility can be a burden on employers and slow the provision of benefits that families need to cover basic bills. Working closely with the administering agency in advance to design eligibility standards and other administrative processes, such as appeals processes, is the best way to keep systems simple, efficient, and aligned.

Simplicity – Well designed PFML programs are complicated, but the outward-facing processes of employers transmitting premiums and employees applying for benefits need to be simple and consumer friendly. Aligning with known processes – such as quarterly payment and data schedules, and known definitions – such as the FMLA definition of serious health condition, promotes simplicity and success.

Keeping Costs Low Policy Options Best Practice Considerations
Who pays premium ·         Shared ·         Politics of gaining support and passing a policy typically determine the final distribution.

·         Assure policy is written so employers can pay the full premium, even if an employee share is included.

Wage base  All wages or Social Security wages ·         Premiums on all wages helps keep costs low for low and middle income workers and small businesses, while supporting benefit and leave structures that maximize positive health and community outcomes.

·         A low wage base disadvantages low and moderate wage workers and reduces resources necessary for a program that fully supports health and family needs.

Alignment and simplicity   Yes ·         Does the state already collect sufficient data to determine eligibility and benefit levels? On what timeline?

·         What definitions and processes are already in use and widely understood that can usefully be applied to this system?

·         What definitions or processes should be changed to support program goals of public health, inclusion, and equity – e.g., expanding family definition and eligibility beyond FMLA.

Building in community input and public communication   Yes ·         Provide for a structured or informal advisory committee?

·         Consider targeted and broad strategies.

·         Balance cost of outreach with importance of public information.

Building in Community Input and Broad Outreach

Including broad community input in program design is important to creating a system that will effectively meet a range of needs, making tough choices, and building the political will to pass a policy. Continuing engagement of knowledgeable stakeholders through implementation, evaluation and beyond can help make programs more effective in the long run. Several states have included informal consultations between agency staff and stakeholders. Washington State’s law provides for an advisory committee with equal numbers of employee and employer interest representatives, regular reports to the legislature, and an Ombuds position.

Surveys and other research in states with operating programs indicate that many people are unaware of paid family leave programs, particularly among lower income workers. California’s Employment Development Department has gone through a rebranding process for their program and implemented new outreach strategies. Advocates there and in New York have implemented targeted community outreach to broaden awareness and takeup. Washington State’s PFML agency is coordinating communications strategies with stakeholders and designing a public education program both for the program launch and for long term outreach, recognizing that new people continually enter the workforce and that people will only need the program sporadically.

Go BIG

Policy change in the U.S. happens in a partisan political world resistant to change. Even an issue as popular across demographic groups as paid family and medical leave encounters major opposition. The temptation for advocates is often to “go small,” assuming that a program with fewer weeks of leave covering fewer conditions and with less generous benefit levels will more likely attract bipartisan support and be easier to pass. In fact, more generous programs that cover a broad range of conditions are more likely to attract broad support and will be more efficient to administer.

In Washington State, legislators, business associations, lobbyists, community representatives, and members of the media were all more enthusiastic about a program that they could envision using at some point in their lives than a program that was less generous than high-road employer benefits. Medical science and research on child and family well-being also support larger scale programs. Staunch opponents will be just as opposed to a small program as a more generous one.

In the early 2000’s, the Washington Work and Family Coalition proposed a program of 5 weeks with a small weekly benefit that drew support, but little real enthusiasm, and lots of opposition – including the charge that no one could live on the benefits. Over the years as the coalition listened to the needs of diverse communities and incorporated learnings from other states, it expanded and improved the proposal. The combination of progressive benefits and relatively high benefits for middle wage earners in the revamped 2017 proposal proved appealing across partisan and interest group lines. People also readily accepted the notion that someone who needs to be on bedrest for three months to maintain a healthy pregnancy also needs to be able to fully recover from childbirth and have a full period of bonding time with their new child. For older people, knowing that leave was fully available for their own serious health condition and caring for aging loved ones was important to generating enthusiasm.

Compromise is often necessary to pass policy, but strong principles that emphasize positive outcomes for children and families have strong bipartisan appeal.

Continuing Research and Innovation

Best practices will continue to evolve. As new state programs and amendments to older programs are implemented and as research continues, we will learn more about how best to design PFML programs to maximize goals of individual and public health benefits, family economic security, equity, and community prosperity.

Notes

[1] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey, March 2017, Table 32. Leave benefits: Access, private industry workers, March 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2017/ownership/private/table32a.pdf.

[2] The Washington Work and Family Coalition proposal was introduced as House Bill 1116 (http://apps2.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1116&Year=2017&BillNumber=1116&Year=2017) and Senate Bill 5032 (http://apps2.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5032&Chamber=Senate&Year=2017). The negotiated policy was passed as Senate Bill 5975 (http://apps2.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5975&Year=2017&BillNumber=5975&Year=2017). See Washington State Legislature bill information at leg.wa.gov.

[3] National Partnership for Women and Families, “History of the FMLA,” viewed April 16, 2018, http://www.nationalpartnership.org/issues/work-family/history-of-the-fmla.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/.

[4] Washington State Board of Health, Health Impact Review of SB 5032, Implementing Family and Medical Leave Insurance, 1/12/2017, http://sboh.wa.gov/OurWork/HealthImpactReviews.

[5] Michael McLaughlin and Mark R. Rank, “Estimating the Economic Cost of Childhood Poverty in the United States,

Mar 30, 2018, Social Work Research, https://academic.oup.com/swr/advance-article/doi/10.1093/swr/svy007/4956930.

[6] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Tenure Summary, Sept. 22, 2016, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm.

[7] New York State, “Paid Family Leave: Frequently Asked Questions,” viewed March 22, 2018, https://www.ny.gov/new-york-state-paid-family-leave/paid-family-leave-frequently-asked-questions.

A Fair Deal at WorkPosted in %s, Paid Family and Medical Leave

Our Mission

The Economic Opportunity Institute’s mission is to build an economy that works for everyone by advancing public policies that promote educational opportunity, good jobs, healthy families and workplaces, and a dignified retirement for all.

 

Program Highlights

Paid Family and Medical Leave: 

1*xl6aQja-8xDKjyoSE7yiGQWashingtonians have sent tens of thousands of emails and made hundreds of visits to legislators with the simple message: a new baby, ailing parent, or cancer diagnosis should not mean financial calamity. On June 30, 2017, the Washington Legislature responded, passing a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program with strong bipartisan support, signed by Governor Jay Inslee in July.

The Washington Work and Family Coalition, convened by EOI, had been working towards this day for more than a decade. This was made possible by EOI’s research and the power the coalition of labor and community partners built through organizing city- and state-level campaigns for paid sick days and other issues.

Tax Reform: 

7660118_web1_170712-SEA-burbank-incometax_1-1024x683@2xJust a few months after EOI and the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition proposed a tax on the wealthy, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a progressive income tax on July 10, 2017 to help finance priorities like ending the homelessness crisis, providing transit, offsetting federal budget cuts, and reducing current regressive taxes, such as property, B&O or sales taxes.

The legislation will place a 2.25 percent tax rate on income over $250,000 a year for individuals, or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. The tax will not affect any income earned below those thresholds. It is currently working its way to the Washington Supreme Court, where the city and EOI seek to overturn a 1930s ruling limiting progressive taxes.

 

Financial Summary

2017 Snapshot

 

Preliminary figures, subject to CPA review; represented on an accrual basis for fiscal year 1/1/17 to 12/31/17

3 Ways You Can Make An Impact

2107 NumbersYou can help build an economy that works for everyone.

  1. Support EOI with a donation, one time or monthly. Ask your employer if they will match your gift – many do! Visit eoionline.org/donate.
  2. Stay informed and share policy news with your friends– visit eoionline.org/news to get our newsletter, like us on Facebook at www.fb.me/eoionline, or follow us on Twitter at @eoionline.
  3. Ask your company or organization to sponsor EOI’s annual event – it’s a win-win for both! Email Sam Hatzenbeler, Development Director, for details at sam@eoionline.org.

Timeline

 

Thank You!

Makini Howell - preferred photo 8.17.17

Makini Howell, 2017 EOI Board President

“Washington’s workers face enormous threats and uncertain futures. In 2017, I watched people in our communiites work hard, day in and day out, to make ends meet and provide for their families. But some of our most basic rights are still too far out of reach, even for those of us who are middle class – things like enrolling our young ones in daycare and preschool, pursuing a college degree  accessing health care, or saving for retirement. 

But thanks to the support of generous donors, 2017 was also a banner year for success for workers. After 20 years of advocacy, organizing and coalition building, EOI won the most progressive and universal paid family and medical leave policy in the country. And, for the first time in 80 years, we catalyzed passage of a progressive income tax on Seattle’s wealthiest households, which will help finance priorities like affordable housing, reducing homelessness, investing in public transit, and reversing our current regressive system.

Our team and the Economic Opportunity Institute works hard each day to put workers and families first, and we can do that because of the generosity of community members like you. From the entire staff and board of EOI, thank you for helping us build a foundation of equity and opportunity for all.”

Photo 2

John, Sarah, Marilyn, Matthew, Gabriela, Melanie, Aaron and Sam

EOI

Fact Sheet | January 8, 2018

Executive Summary
A Fair Deal at WorkPosted in %s, Equal Pay

Fact Sheet | January 1, 2018

Executive Summary

Our mission: build an economy that works for everyone by advancing public policies that promote educational opportunity, good jobs, healthy families & workplaces, and a dignified retirement for all.

Legislative and Legal Action

Health Care: Identify and develop state-based solutions to maintain and expand health care coverage, while improving access and affordability for communities across the state.

Equal Pay and Opportunity: Pass legislation giving workers new tools to help ensure they are being paid equitably and have access to career opportunities.

Tax Reform: Defend the recently passed income tax ordinance in Seattle through the State Supreme Court and continue to work for progressive revenue solutions to support public services.

Higher Education: Capitalize on political commitments to institute free community college in Seattle. Help mobilize sentiment for free community college tuition statewide, financed with new progressive revenue sources.

Implementation & Evaluation

Paid Family and Medical Leave: Ensure successful implementation of paid family and medical leave in 2020, working with the State and community partners to ensure rules, procedures, and outreach activities support easy and equitable access.

Research & Development

Child Care Worker Compensation & Affordability: Work with stakeholders to research and develop policy solutions for building an early learning system that supports kids, families, and workers.

Social Security: Work with allies nationwide to defend and improve Social Security, and explore state-based policy solutions to enhance retirement security in Washington State.

 


Full Fact Sheet >

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EOI Policy Director Marilyn Watkins

EOI Policy Director Marilyn Watkins

For a PDF version of this report, click here.

Late in the evening on June 30, 2017, the Washington State Legislature adopted one of the nation’s most comprehensive paid family and medical leave (PFML) policies. The vote was strongly bipartisan – 37 to 12 in the Senate and 65 to 29 in the House. Breaking rules and long-standing precedent, legislators and advocates stood and applauded when the final tallies were announced. Five days later, Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law, surrounded by a large and festive crowd of workers, business owners, lobbyists, children, legislators, and journalists.

In this era of hyper-partisanship, how did we pass a major new program through Washington’s sharply divided Legislature? There was no secret formula: For nearly two decades, we prepared, organized, sought new allies and listened to skeptics. We were willing to rethink policy and incorporate new ideas. We built the power and unity that pushed the issue to center stage. When the opening came, we were ready and seized it.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signs paid family and medical leave into law surrounded by legislators, advocates, and business owners, July 5, 2017.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signs paid family and medical leave into law surrounded by legislators, advocates, and business owners, July 5, 2017.

A long time coming

The Washington Work and Family Coalition has advocated for paid family and medical leave since 1998. When both parents have paid leave, babies and their mothers are healthier – both in the short and long run. Families are more economically secure and less at risk of poverty. Women are more likely to be in the workforce a year after giving birth and earning higher wages when they have paid maternity leave. People of all ages recover more quickly from serious illness or injury when loved ones are present and they have sufficient time and rest to heal. And with our aging population, more workers have eldercare responsibilities. Paid family and medical leave reduces health care costs and improves outcomes for everyone.

Businesses also benefit from higher morale, a more productive workforce, and less costly turnover.

Despite its advantages, the U.S. is the only economically developed country that does not guarantee workers paid maternity leave as well as ample paid medical and personal leave for other purposes. As a consequence, one in four U.S. women are back on the job within two weeks of giving birth. Too many people also struggle to maintain a full-time work schedule while undergoing cancer treatments, a loved one is hospitalized, or a parent is dying.

Five states – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Hawaii and New York – have decades-old temporary disability insurance programs that provide wage replacement for workers with serious illnesses or injuries, including pregnancy complications and recovery from childbirth. Over the past fifteen years, each of those states except Hawaii has added paid family leave to their programs. Washington has thus become the fifth state with paid family and medical leave and the first to do so without a disability insurance program to build upon.

Working through setbacks

Washington came close to establishing paid family leave in 2007, after several years of organizing by the Work and Family Coalition. The Legislature passed a paid leave policy for new parents that year, but stripped funding and leave for other purposes from the final bill. The coalition and legislators prepared a bill to expand and fund the program for the 2009 legislative session, but the Great Recession and its devastating impact on the state budget tanked any chance of success for several years.

Onesies decorated by MomsRising members formed the backdrop for a 2007 Work and Family Coalition press conference outside the Washington State Capitol introducing an earlier version of paid family and medical leave.

Onesies decorated by MomsRising members formed the backdrop for a 2007 Work and Family Coalition press conference outside the Washington State Capitol introducing an earlier version of paid family and medical leave.

At that point, the coalition shifted focus to organizing municipal campaigns for paid sick days. We hoped this strategy would improve public health and provide important new rights to workers. At the same time, it would build our base of supporters so we would have momentum and more power when we brought paid family leave back to the Legislature. We met with women’s and senior groups, labor leaders, business owners, health professionals, community organizations, and elected officials in several cities. Ultimately local coalitions successfully championed paid sick and safe leave ordinances in Seattle in 2011, Tacoma in 2015, and Spokane in 2016 – part of a string of dozens of local and state sick leave victories across the U.S.

The local successes proved to policymakers and key organizational leaders that public policy guaranteeing paid leave is both popular with the voting public and consistent with business prosperity.

Rally outside Seattle City Hall before key City Council committee vote for paid sick and safe days, August 2011.

Rally outside Seattle City Hall before key City Council committee vote for paid sick and safe days, August 2011.

Converging streams

In the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008, with wages stagnating and income inequality continuing to soar, the fight for a $15 minimum wage caught fire nationally. Two signature campaigns achieved victories in Washington. A SeaTac ballot initiative combining the $15 minimum wage and paid sick leave won in 2013, and the Seattle City Council passed a $15 minimum wage ordinance the following year. Labor unions and other worker advocacy groups that participate in the Washington Work and Family Coalition led both of these campaigns.

In the Legislature, bills to raise the minimum wage and establish paid sick and safe leave statewide passed several times in the Democrat-led House only to die in the Republican-controlled Senate. In 2016, the Raise Up Washington coalition – which included most of the organizations in the Work and Family Coalition, took those two issues to the people in a ballot initiative. Washington voters approved Initiative 1433 with over 57% of the vote, including in districts where a majority supported Donald Trump and other Republican candidates.

Labor and community advocates gather in Washington’s Secretary of State office to file Initiative 1433, which would raise the state minimum wage and establish paid sick and safe leave standards statewide, January 2016.

Labor and community advocates gather in Washington’s Secretary of State office to file Initiative 1433, which would raise the state minimum wage and establish paid sick and safe leave standards statewide, January 2016.

Washington’s Work and Family Coalition also continued building support for statewide PFML. We worked with legislators to introduce a revamped and expanded policy in 2013 and again in 2015. In both years, committees in the House passed the bills, but not in the Senate. Even with limited progress, legislative activity allowed us to build and energize our coalition, collect personal stories, hold legislative hearings, educate legislators about the issue and policy options, and gain additional input on policy from small business owners, health professionals, and diverse communities.

Vancouver small business owner and Main Street Alliance president Don Orange testifies for paid family and medical leave during a 2013 legislative committee hearing, with Frank Irigon of Puget Sound Alliance for Retirement Action, father Mark Barfield, and Sarah Francis of MomsRising.

Vancouver small business owner and Main Street Alliance president Don Orange testifies for paid family and medical leave during a 2013 legislative committee hearing, with Frank Irigon of Puget Sound Alliance for Retirement Action, father Mark Barfield, and Sarah Francis of MomsRising.

A flurry of employers announced expansions of their own parental leave programs in 2015 and 2016, especially in high-tech companies competing for talent, such as Microsoft and Amazon. The City of Seattle and King County were among public employers that approved expanding paid parental leave for their own employees.

National polls showed the issue was overwhelmingly popular with voters across partisan lines, and candidates of both parties proposed federal paid family leave policies during the 2016 presidential race. By 2016, several Seattle City Council members were publicly exploring options for citywide paid family leave for private sector employers in the city.

Not If, But When

By late 2016, there was a clear sense that the question was not if Washington would pass paid family leave, but when and how. Our coalition developed a new PFML bill based on best practices from around the country with our legislative champions, Senator Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) and Representative June Robinson (D-Everett). The legislation proposed a state-run insurance program that would provide up to 12 weeks of leave for the worker’s own health condition and 26 weeks of paid family leave, with progressive benefits to assure affordability for low- and moderate-income workers, and premiums equally shared between employees and employers.

Small business owner Makini Howell speaks at Coalition and legislator press conference inside the Capitol building introducing paid family and medical leave bills, January 2017.

Small business owner Makini Howell speaks at Coalition and legislator press conference inside the Capitol building introducing paid family and medical leave bills, January 2017.

Nevertheless, chances looked slim that the Legislature would pass PFML during its 2017 session. As in the previous four years, Democrats held a narrow majority in the House, and Republicans a one-vote margin in the Senate – in a Majority Caucus that included one conservative Democrat. Most observers expected the session to be dominated by a partisan impasse over the state budget, with little progress on major policy issues.

Two developments created an opening. First, key members of the business lobby community in Olympia recognized that our coalition had the resources to run and win a paid family leave ballot initiative and indicated early in the session that they were prepared to come to the table and have a hand in drafting a PFML program for the state. Secondly, the Majority Floor Leader Senator Joe Fain (R-Auburn) introduced his own paid family leave bill after spending 12 weeks at home with his wife and newborn son the previous year.

Senator Joe Fain and son, with Senator Karen Keiser and Speaker Frank Chopp to the right, speaking at coalition press conference before Paid Family and Medical Leave bill signing, July 5, 2017.

Senator Joe Fain and son, with Senator Karen Keiser and Speaker Frank Chopp to the right, speaking at coalition press conference before Paid Family and Medical Leave bill signing, July 5, 2017.

With a well-respected Republican joining several Democratic legislators as ardent supporters of paid family leave, business community members ready to work out a deal rather than face a ballot initiative, and Work and Family Coalition partners determined to see a comprehensive program finally established, the stage was set. Legislators from both parties and chambers, seven representatives of the business community, and seven representatives of the Work and Family Coalition met in a remarkable series of negotiations. The discussions that ensued were often intense, at times passionate, but based on a spirit of problem-solving and mutual respect.

The fact that the House and Senate reached an impasse on budget negotiations proved a bonus. The Governor was forced to call three special sessions to finish the budget after the regular legislative session ended in mid-April, providing ample time to reach a deal. In the end, the Legislature approved both the budget and family leave on the last day of June.

Coalition and business negotiators and the governor gather outside the Senate chamber to thank lead sponsors immediately after the Senate passed PFML. Left to right: Julia Gorton, Washington Hospitality Association; Holly Chisa, NW Grocery Association; Nancy Sapiro, Legal Voice; Lindsey Grad, SEIU 1199 (partly hidden); Brenda Wiest, Teamsters 117; Bob Battles, Association of Washington Business; Joe Kendo, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma; Rebecca Johnson, UFCW 21; Senator Joe Fain, R-Auburn; Senator Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines; Tammie Hetrick, Washington Retail Association; Marilyn Watkins, Economic Opportunity Institute; Maggie Humphreys, MomsRising; Nick Streuli, Washington Economic Security Department; Governor Jay Inslee.

Coalition and business negotiators and the governor gather outside the Senate chamber to thank lead sponsors immediately after the Senate passed PFML. Left to right: Julia Gorton, Washington Hospitality Association; Holly Chisa, NW Grocery Association; Nancy Sapiro, Legal Voice; Lindsey Grad, SEIU 1199 (partly hidden); Brenda Wiest, Teamsters 117; Bob Battles, Association of Washington Business; Joe Kendo, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma; Rebecca Johnson, UFCW 21; Senator Joe Fain, R-Auburn; Senator Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines; Tammie Hetrick, Washington Retail Association; Marilyn Watkins, Economic Opportunity Institute; Maggie Humphreys, MomsRising; Nick Streuli, Washington Economic Security Department; Governor Jay Inslee.

Washington’s PFML Policy

Washington’s paid family and medical leave will operate primarily as an insurance program operated by the state. Beginning January 1, 2020, people who worked at least 820 hours for any employer in the previous year will be eligible for:

  • Up to 12 weeks of family leave to care for a newborn or newly placed adopted or foster child or a family member with a serious health condition, or a family member’s military deployment.
  • Up to 12 weeks of medical leave for the worker’s own serious health condition, with an addition 2 weeks for a pregnancy complication.
  • Total combined leave in a year of 16 weeks (18 weeks with a pregnancy complication).

Benefits will be 90% of usual wages for lower income workers and top off at $1,000 per week.

Premiums begin in January 2019 at 0.4% of pay. Workers will pay 63% of the premiums, employers 37%.

Examples of Premiums and Benefits for Full-Time Workers

PFML chart

Business assistance:

  • Companies with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer share of premiums, but may choose to do so to be eligible for small business assistance funds. Their employees will pay the same as they would in a larger company and receive the same benefits.
  • Companies with fewer than 150 employees that pay employer premiums may apply for $3,000 to cover costs of training replacement workers, or up to $1,000 for other costs of covering work when someone is out on leave.
  • Companies may opt to provide their own benefits of equal length and at least equal financial compensation and apply for a waiver from the state program. Self-employed people and contracted workers may opt in for a 3-year minimum period.

Lessons along the way

Each state has its own conditions, and every campaign is unique. However, lessons from Washington’s experience can help other states move forward.

Be in it for the long haul

At this point, most states won’t require 20 years to pass paid family and medical leave. Over the past decade, there has been a shift so that the general public across the U.S. perceives the lack of paid family leave as an issue public policy should address. Coalitions can now come together and build momentum more quickly. However, stakeholders and policymakers still need time to educate themselves about how different policy options are likely to affect outcomes for different groups. The implementation process is also critical to ultimate success and will require sustained commitment of stakeholders.

The Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit policy center, has convened the Washington Work and Family Coalition (originally the Paid Family Leave Coalition) and has provided policy research and communications support for nearly two decades. Consistent funding from multiple donors, particularly through the Family Values @ Work network, has been essential to sustaining the work. Participation in FV@W has also provided opportunities to learn from the experiences of programs and coalitions in other states.

Build a diverse coalition

The Washington Work and Family Coalition grew over time as we worked for both paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave. Our diversity of partners brought a breadth of perspectives and political strengths. Organizations representing women, seniors, immigrants, low-wage workers, small business owners, communities of color, children, LGBTQ communities, faith communities, medical professionals, and others all contributed unique perspectives that strengthened our policy.

The diversity provided an array of messengers who could speak authoritatively with personal stories on how a PFML program would improve public health, family economic security, small business competitiveness, and health outcomes, particularly for infants and seniors. Allying with statewide groups and organizations based in different localities insured that legislators received emails, phone calls, and personal visits from their own constituents.

Some organizations officially joined the coalition, while others participated less formally – delivering information to their members, sharing stories, and speaking directly to legislators. Some groups contributed considerable staff time and insider political savvy. Others had specific policy expertise or strong bipartisan relationships. Some activated grassroots members to turn out for events or send in email messages. We worked with our partners to find the ways that they and their members could contribute most effectively.

Many of our organizations have worked together on other issues in other coalitions, and sometimes we disagree. However, most recognize that our commitment is not to a single campaign, but to building a more inclusive economy and democracy in Washington State where all families have the opportunity to thrive.

logoWashington Work and Family Coalition Organizational Endorsers

AARP Washington … LGBTQ Allyship … American Association of University Women of Washington …  A. Phillip Randolph Institute … CASA Latina … Caring Across Generations … Children’s Alliance … Early Learning Action Alliance … Economic Opportunity Institute … Faith Action Network … IAM 751 … International Community Health Services … League of Women Voters… Legal Voice … MomsRising … National Organization for Women of Washington … OneAmerica … PTE 17 … Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action … Puget Sound Sage … SEIU 6 …  SEIU 775 …  SEIU 925 … SEIU 1199 … Seattle Human Services Coalition … Seattle Women’s Commission … SPEEA – IFPTE 2001 … Statewide Poverty Action Network … Teamsters 117 … Teamsters Joint Council … UFCW 21 … UFCW 367 … UFCW United Council … Washington CAN! … Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics … Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility … Washington Senior Citizens’ Lobby … Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans … Washington State Association of Head Start/ECEAP … Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence … Washington State Council of Fire Fighters … Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO … Washington State Nurses Association … YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish

Listen and empower

Personal testimonies motivated us to continue through years of disappointment and setbacks. We heard from people who were forced to return to work before they recovered from surgery, when their newborn was still in the hospital, or while they cared for a dying parent. We also heard about how they faced long term financial and health consequences because they lacked paid leave during a health crisis. Those stories inspired policymakers and sometimes encouraged us to rethink policy design to accommodate real-life scenarios.

We gathered community input in a variety of ways. In 2014 and 2015, our coalition coordinated with local groups to host ten forums on women’s economic security, including a focus on PFML, in cities around the state. We tabled and hosted workshops at labor conventions, spoke at forums and community group meetings, and met with leaders from diverse communities. Our coalition partners shared stories from their members, including MomsRising, which also organized a statewide paid family leave listening tour in 2016.

Our coalition partner groups encouraged and supported their members to participate directly in policy change through trainings, lobby days, email campaigns, and sharing their experiences publicly.

Engage diverse business voices

Listening to businesses improves policy design, and supportive businesses are usually essential to moving policy through the political process. When workers have the paid leave they need to keep themselves and their families healthy and economically secure, they are more productive and stay on the job longer, benefitting their employers as well. Pragmatically, if employers find a program like paid family and medical leave understandable and simple, their employees will have much easier access.

Our coalition leaders engaged with the business community in formal and informal ways over a number of years, sometimes through associations, more often one-on-one. We found that seeking input on policy design opened the door to more productive conversations than trying to sell people on the importance of paid leave. We met prior to introducing legislation with small business owners and representatives of key major employers to hear their perspectives on specific policy options, learn where they foresaw problems, and solicit their recommendations on possible solutions.

While we encountered some skepticism, we also heard repeatedly that business owners were committed to helping build healthy communities and many would welcome a low-cost tool such as paid family and medical leave insurance to help support their employees through tough times.

The formal negotiations and collective problem solving between worker advocates, legislators, and diverse business representatives that took place in 2017 produced both innovative policy design and a shared commitment to help guide the implementation process and see the paid family and medical leave program successfully launched.

Do your homework

In order for new programs to achieve equitable access and big improvements in health and economic security, advocates and policymakers need to go beyond the bullet points of the various models to understand the nuances of how policy elements interact. Fortunately, we now have a significant body of research from academics and policy experts on outcomes from – and shortcomings of – the existing state PFML programs, as well as knowledgeable people who are happy to share their expertise.

During the second term of the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded research grants to a number of states and localities to study paid family leave. The results of all of those studies are publically available. Washington received one of these grants in late 2015 that funded cost estimates on a number of policy alternatives and a public opinion poll which showed that three in four Washington voters supported adopting a state paid family and medical leave insurance program funded through payroll premiums. The coalition also conducted its own polling to test the strength of specific policy elements.

Our legislative sponsors also requested a Health Impact Review of their PFML bills, a tool available in other states as well, that provided a comprehensive literature review of the likely health and economic security outcomes of adopting a program.

Design policy based on broad input and core principles

Over the years, our coalition policy proposal evolved as we learned more about what people actually need and ways in which other state programs were succeeding and could be improved upon. We developed our 2017 policy proposal based on broad input and key values. Maintaining a focus on those values during the negotiations that followed helped keep our coalition united and clarified bottom lines.

For us, it was important that Washington’s PFML program:

  • Insure every child has a solid foundation during the first months of life and support lifelong healthier outcomes – by providing sufficient length of both family and medical leave for both routine and complex situations.
  • Promote family economic security across income levels, race, and gender – by providing progressive and sufficiently high benefits, with close to full wage replacement for lower-income workers, and covering a wide range of family types and needs.
  • Be designed for the 21st-century workforce – by providing full portability between jobs, including every sector and employer, and being accessible to self-employed and “gig” workers.
  • Support thriving businesses – by keeping the system as simple and low cost as possible for both employees and employers, and considering specific challenges faced by small businesses.
  • Minimize cost and complexity – by relying to the extent possible on data already being collected by state agencies and definitions already in broad use.

Work closely with policymakers and agency staff

In addition to familiarizing legislators and the Governor’s office with PFML basics, we worked hard to educate a smaller core of legislators from both parties and staff about the implications of different policy choices on outcomes for different groups of workers, families, and businesses. That groundwork helped lead to a successful result in negotiations.

We have also learned over the years the importance of engaging early on the staff of the agency that will be responsible for implementing a policy once it is enacted. Especially in a program as complex as PFML, having agency input on the design of a program’s inner workings avoids problems and helps everything from passage through implementation go more smoothly.

Build a track record of success

The string of victories on paid sick leave and minimum wage that our coalition partners racked up beginning in 2011 assured that policymakers, business associations, and other key stakeholders and gatekeepers took our coalition seriously when we presented a united front around paid family leave.

Not every state has the possibility of running ballot initiatives, and some state legislatures have passed preemption laws that prohibit municipal action on paid sick days, minimum wage, and other labor standards. Advocates in every state will need to find their own path to building power.

Be receptive to new partners

We learned over the years not to make assumptions about someone’s position on paid family leave based on their party or organizational affiliation. We have also found that trying to understand and address the reasons behind concerns of skeptics and opponents can help strengthen a policy and its chances for passage. New partners can also provide important insights into strategy.

Stay nimble and communicate!

The best-laid plans can be made obsolete by one sudden event, and new opportunities can arise unexpectedly. Successful coalitions can be structured in a variety of ways, but must have built the trust and communications networks among leaders, key partners, and grassroots members to be able to make decisions quickly and keep united for the long haul.

Stay at the table and give people space

We could so easily have walked away or brought negotiations to a rancorous conclusion. It took time and effort to build trust at so diverse a table. Knowing we had other potential routes to victory kept our coalition negotiators resolved to win a strong policy, but past disappointments reminded us not to be cocky. Ultimately, we were successful both because both sides listened to each other and tried to understand each other’s issues, and also because each side gave the other the space it needed to process new information and bring its community along.

Say thank you and celebrate your victories

Success is sweet, most of all when shared. The Washington Work and Family Coalition thanked our membership profusely for all their contributions to success. We also thanked every member of the Legislature who voted in favor of our bill and encouraged partner organizations and grassroots supporters to send in thanks as well. We made the bill signing a festive community event, and later had a party withe awards for our legislative champions and the Governor.

A bubbly toast to victory.

A bubbly toast to victory.

Thank you plaque for legislative leaders.

Thank you plaque for legislative leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: , , ,
A Fair Deal at WorkPosted in %s, Paid Family and Medical Leave

For a PDF of this report, click here.

The Washington State Constitution states: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” [1]

In 2014, the State Supreme Court found Washington State in contempt of the 2012 McCleary K-12 decision because it had failed to fully fund public education. Although the Legislature has since increased funding for schools, our schools remain far from full funding, even according to the Legislature’s own definition, established in 2009 and 2010 in House Bills 2261 and 2776.  Further, the Legislature has delayed and disabled implementation of Initiative 1351 to lower class sizes in all grades, voted into law by the people in 2014. [2]

Washington State should still be seen as in contempt.

Class Sizes and Student Teacher Ratios

Washington is one of the five worst states in terms of class size. [3] Vermont, which has the best student/teacher ratio in the country, has seven fewer students per class with a per capita income that is $4,400 less than Washington’s $55,718. Mississippi, the poorest state in the country with a per capita income of $36,296, has three fewer students per teacher than Washington. [4] From 2004 through 2016, through economic growth and severe recession, we have barely made a dent in the student-teacher ratio, even since the State Supreme Court’s McCleary Decision of 2012.

To bring class sizes down to Mississippi’s level, it would cost Washington about $2 billion a year, and about $5.6 billion a year to reach Vermont’s. [5]

According to the Education Week Research Center’s annual Quality Counts report, which combines 39 indicators for quality in K-12 systems throughout the country, Washington ranks 20th in education quality. [6] Per capita income in the states outperforming Washington ranges from $45,000 to $70,000. [7] The average per capita income, weighted by population, [8] for these states is $56,610, [9] $892 more per person than Washington’s.

For Washington to obtain the class size standards of the 19 states ahead of us would require about $3.4 billion a year, the equivalent of over one-third of the 2017 K-12 budget for the state. [10] To reach the level of the six states that earned the top grade of “B” in the Quality Counts survey – Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Connecticut – would require an investment of $4.2 billion a year, an increase of over 45% in state investments for K-12.

Teacher Compensation

If the Legislature intends to meet its paramount duty, it must increase teachers’ salaries to be competitive nationally, regionally, and among other professions with similar education and skills. We are seeing a teaching shortage across the nation. [11] Enrollments in educator preparation programs are down – indicating that teaching is not competitive among similar professions. Yet average salaries for Washington teachers are 92% of the national average in salaries. [12] Not only do we have to compete with other states in trying to meet our own teacher shortage, but we also have to make sure the pay is competitive enough that prospective teachers don’t choose a different profession.

In 2012, the State’s Compensation Technical Working Group, as authorized and mandated by House Bill 2261 (2009), conducted a comparable wage analysis and found that beginning educator pay should be increased dramatically to be competitive. The compensation technical working group’s recommended wage (adjusted for inflation since the report’s issuance) would have been $54,000 in the 2017-18 school year; currently, the state allocates $36,521 for a beginning educator. [13] At the time of their report, the compensation technical working group estimated that it would take $2.2 billion per year [14] (again, adjusted for inflation since the report’s issuance) to bring state funding for teachers and other education professionals’ pay to competitive, market-based wages.  So a very rough estimate of needed new revenue for K-12 education, including increases in the K-12 student population, while excluding capital costs for new school construction, is between $12 billion and $14 billion a biennium. [15]

Higher Education

When Governor Jay Inslee and Speaker Frank Chopp attended the University of Washington in the 1970s, their tuition and mandatory fees were less than $3,000 in 2016 dollars. When Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler earned his associate’s degree in agribusiness from Spokane Community , his tuition was about $1,000 in 2016 dollars. [16] Current tuition and fees at the University of Washington total $10,974, more than three times what they were in the 1970s. [17] Current tuition and fees at Spokane Community College total $4,293. [18]

In 1959-1961, average biennial appropriations per student for the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Central, Eastern and Western Washington State Colleges exceeded $11,500. In 2011-2013, per student appropriations had fallen to $5,000. [19]

Source: “Washington State's Mandate: The Constitutional Obligation to Fund Post-Secondary Education” November 28, 2014

Source: “Washington State’s Mandate: The Constitutional Obligation to Fund Post-Secondary Education” November 28, 2014

Washington State’s funding for higher education peaked in 1980. That year, tuition and fees at the University of Washington and Washington State University were less than $2,000, at the regional universities less than $1,800, and at the community colleges less than $900. [20] Slowly tuition crept up, with the pace accelerating in the past two decades.

In 1995, tuition and fees at the University of Washington and Washington State University were less than $4,800, at the regional universities less than $3,700, and at the community colleges about $2,100. [21] At that time, the state financed over 70% of the average cost of higher education for a student, and tuition accounted for less than 30%. [22]

In 2017, the state supported only 43% of the cost for education at the two universities, while tuition accounted for 57%. At the community colleges, state support has fallen from 70% to 59%. To return to the funding levels of 1980, the state would need to contribute another $1.2 billion a year.

 

Early Learning

In the past decade, political leaders have realized that the time in a child’s life from birth to kindergarten creates the platform, self-confidence, and social skills necessary for a child entering elementary school. Yet our state neglects the financing necessary for high quality early learning and child care for the vast majority of children in our state. Our current system of poverty-level wages, rapid turnover, and few incentives for education for early learning teachers and caregivers all add up to compromising the health, well-being, and future of Washington’s children.

What would it take to develop a high quality statewide system of care, well-being, and education for the youngest children in our state? The most fundamental enablers for high quality learning and care are the teachers and caregivers. Their compensation takes up the vast majority of the budget for individual child care centers, approximately 70% of total costs. [23]

Author's calculations. [1] 2014 wages calculated in 2015 dollars. [2] 2017 minimum wage + 25 cents.

Author’s calculations. [1] 2014 wages calculated in 2015 dollars. [2] 2017 minimum wage + 25 cents.

Assistant teachers currently earn just above the statewide minimum wage of $11 an hour. The average wage for a lead teacher is $12.85. A supervisor receives about $15.50. [24] But on the other side of the ledger, Child Care Aware of America ranks Washington among the bottom ten states in the nation for affordable childcare, estimating the average annual cost of a child in a center at $22,997. It is difficult for the household finances of low- and moderate-income parents to sustain these costsand it is impossible for working-class families to finance the increases in compensation necessary for high quality care. [25]

Author's calculations. [1] These calculations presume full-time and year round work. The K-12 salary schedule is for the 2017 school year. [2] Source: https://www.tacomaschools.org/hr/Salary%20Schedules/Teachers%20Salary%20Schedule.pdf

Author’s calculations. [1] These calculations presume full-time and year round work. The K-12 salary schedule is for the 2017 school year. [2] Source: https://www.tacomaschools.org/hr/Salary%20Schedules/Teachers%20Salary%20Schedule.pdf

If we are indeed committed to higher quality early learning, our state cannot continue to promote a system that impoverishes workers. We should at least begin to bring child care teachers close to the salaries of elementary school teachers. If the Legislature decided to indeed fund early learning, and especially focus on compensation, these modest wage steps would cost between $240 million and $350 million a year. [26]

The Legislature Claims Ample Funding, But Supreme Court Disagrees

Considering K-12 education, higher education and early learning, our state is short by about $7 billion a year –$1,000 per resident per year – compared to what would be necessary to meet our paramount constitutional duty for the education of all children, to build the early learning foundation for their success in K-12, and to enable them to follow their aspirations for higher education. What has the Legislature done?  They have clothed an incremental and insufficient funding increase for K-12 education with aspirational promises for future funding.  This past July the Legislature increased funding for basic education by $1.6 billion for the 2017-2019 biennium.

The Legislature claims they have approved a $7.4 billion increase in funding over four years. They achieve that figure by adding together proposed appropriations for these years.  This doesn’t mean that in 2021 the state will have $7.4 billion dedicated to K-12 compared to 2017. At the most, the figure for 2021 is $2.7 billion, less than half of what would be the “ample funding” required by our constitution. It gets worse. This Legislature has not and cannot determine the budget for the 2019-2021 biennium, so there is no guarantee that the additional increases will be forthcoming. Further, $440 million of the promoted $7.4 billion goes to non-basic education funding. [27]

While congratulating themselves on funding education, the Legislature failed to fund current public responsibilities for higher education, and instead put in place a 2 percent increase in tuition at our state’s higher education institutions. And while the focus was on K-12, the Legislature again failed to fund a career and wage ladder for early learning teachers and caregivers, a wage ladder that the Legislature voted into state law in 2005.  As a result, the teachers and caregivers of our youngest children work themselves into poverty. This is not a prescription for high quality early learning.

The Legislature has again failed the students, the children, the parents, the constitution, and its own laws in refusing to fully and amply fund education.  They have sent a message to our children and their parents that our state is in fact, regardless of rhetoric, unwilling to fund the educational building blocks for full participation in our society and economy for all residents in our state.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Article IX, Section 1, Washington State Constitution http://leg.wa.gov/LawsAndAgencyRules/Pages/constitution.aspx

[2] For further discussion, the organization “Washington’s Paramount Duty” has an excellent synopsis: http://paramountduty.org/how-we-got-into-this-mess/

[3] Source: National Education Association, Rankings of States and Estimates of School Statistics, 2005 to 2017 Reports, Tables C-6 http://www.nea.org/home/44479.htm

[4] per capita income from Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, Regional Data, Second Quarter 2017, per capita personal income https://bea.gov/iTable/

[5] Author’s calculations from (1) http://www.eoionline.org/budget/#minor/Public+Schools/2017/list, (2) http://www.k12.wa.us/DataAdmin/enrollment.aspx, (3) http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2017_Rankings_and_Estimates_Report-FINAL-SECURED.pdf I took the NEA data on class sizes for other states and compared them to Washington. The Washington data includes local funding, so estimates for needed new revenue are based on class size from all funding sources (that is, local school districts as well as the state).  If the state takes over the local funding, as is currently constructed, sort of, with the new legislation, then the state portion would have to go up and obviously the local portion would go down – but the overall funding estimate would remain roughly the same.

[6] http://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2017/state-highlights/2017/01/04/national-education-ranking.html

[7] Bureau of Economic Analysis, op. cit.

[8] https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_population

[9] https://bea.gov/iTable/

[10] http://www.eoionline.org/budget/#home/default/2017/list

[11] http://www.k12.wa.us/LegisGov/TeacherShortage.aspx, https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Solving_Teacher_Shortage_Attract_Retain_Educators_BRIEF.pdf, https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/washington-not-alone-in-hunt-for-teachers-new-report-says/, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/08/28/teacher-shortages-affecting-every-state-as-2017-18-school-year-begins/?utm_term=.978bcbb8dc0d, http://data.pesb.wa.gov/production

[12] http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2017_Rankings_and_Estimates_Report-FINAL-SECURED.pdf, Table C-5

[13] http://k12.wa.us/LegisGov/pubdocs/K12SalaryAllocationPayforTeachersCertificatedInstructionalStaff.pdf, http://k12.wa.us/LegisGov/pubdocs/K12SalaryAllocationPayforTeachersCertificatedInstructionalStaff.pdf, http://www.k12.wa.us/Compensation/CompTechWorkGroupReport/CompTechWorkGroup.pdf, p. 20 (This is equivalent to $2.2 billion in 2017).

[14] Ibid.

[15] These figures are corroborated through an analysis of the state’s Quality Education Council (QEC) cost studies, which used a completely different, and more thorough, methodology and resulted in even greater needed funding estimates for K-12 education. The QEC was eliminated by the Legislature in 2015. The financial commitments suggested by the QEC cost studies were apparently too daunting for the Legislature. For in-depth analysis and historical narrative, see http://waschoolfunding.com/ “Ample Funding for Washington State Public Schools: The Funding and the School Finance Plan Needed to Fully Fund Basic Education”

[16] http://www.eoionline.org/data/tuition-at-wa-state-public-colleges-and-universities/

[17] https://opb.washington.edu/sites/default/files/opb/Final2017-18TriCampusAnnualTuitionAndFee.pdf

[18] http://www.ccs.spokane.edu/Forms-A-to-Z/District-Forms/Business-Office/Tuition/Tuition—fees/CCS-Tuition-Book-FY2017-18.aspx

[19] “Washington State’s Mandate: The Constitutional Obligation to Fund Post-Secondary Education” November 28, 2014 | 89 Wash. L. Rev. Online 15 https://www.law.uw.edu/wlr/online-edition/sherman-spitzer/ p. 38 (PDF p. 24)

[20] http://www.eoionline.org/data/tuition-at-wa-state-public-colleges-and-universities/

[21] Ibid.

[22] http://www.eoionline.org/data/tuition-at-wa-state-public-colleges-and-universities/

[23] See Suzanne W. Helburn and Carollee Howes, “Child Care Cost and Quality”, https://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/06_02_03.pdf p. 12

[24] Technical Report 15-024, Washington State 2014 Child Care Survey, Child Care Rate and Resources in Washington State, p. 39; (word document on DEL website), adjusted for inflation and the 2017 increase in the minimum wage.

[25] Childcare Aware of American, “Parents and the High cost of Child Care 2016,” http://usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/research/costofcare/.

[26] This does not include any additional costs for employer FICA taxes, health care, paid vacation, or educational expenses.

[27] https://waschoolfunding.com/?page_id=197.  See also http://crosscut.com/2017/10/mccleary-washington-school-funding-shutdown-legislature-supreme-court-ruling/

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Fact Sheet | November 3, 2017 | By Aaron Keating

Executive Summary

Social Security is crucial to Washingtonians’ economic security and our state’s economy

Nearly 1.3 million Washington residents receive Social Security benefits, representing 18% of the state’s population, who in turn provide income for 30% of the state’s households.[1] Seventy-five percent of benefit recipients (969,835 people) are age 65 or older, 19% (245,536) are age 18-64 and 6% (75,827) are under 18. Nine in 10 residents age 65 or older receive benefits; 55% of those (530,276) are women.[2]

Social Security dramatically reduces poverty among the elderly in Washington, from 35.1% to 7.4%.[3] Retirement benefits average a modest $1,379/month ($16,549/year) – but without them, an additional 301,000 Washingtonians age 65 or older would have lived in poverty in 2015.[4]

For 98% of Washington’s 1.6+ million children and families, Social Security is the primary insurance protection in the event a parent or spouse dies or is disabled.[5] In 2016, over 109,000 widow(er)s and children in Washington received an average $1,219/month ($14,631/year); over 211,000 disabled workers and their families received an average $1,061/month ($12,737/year).[6]

Social Security significantly boosts Washington’s economy. In 2016, benefits were equivalent to 5.2% of state total personal income, generating more than $31 billion in economic activity, 192,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue.[7],[8] In December of that year, nearly $1.7 billion in Social Security benefits went directly to local economies across the state, from King County (288,000 people, $406 million) to Garfield County (660 people, $808,000).[9]

It’s time to “Scrap the Cap” to build on Social Security’s strong foundation

The Social Security cuts proposed by the Trump administration and Republican leaders of Congress are both needless and harmful to America’s families, seniors and communities.[10] Reducing benefits, limiting COLAs and/or increasing the retirement age will diminish economic security for nearly every American. It will disproportionately affect low- and middle-income families, women and all workers of color who, unlike wealthy individuals, often do not have significant retirement savings and must work further into old age in more difficult and physically demanding jobs.[11]

Social Security is the nation’s most secure and conservatively invested public trust.[12] In anticipation of the “baby-boomer” generation’s retirement, Congress increased payroll taxes and reduced future benefits for millions of Americans in the early 1980’s, building a large surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund.[13] The latest Trust Fund report projects Social Security can pay all benefits in full and on time until 2034, and 75% of benefits thereafter.[14]

Lawmakers should build on that strong foundation by making payroll taxes more equitable, to strengthen and expand Social Security. While 94% of American workers pay Social Security tax on every paycheck, most of the earnings of the top 1 percent – and especially the top 0.1 percent – escape Social Security taxes.[15]

That’s because workers and their employers each pay 6.2% of wages toward Social Security – but there’s a cap on taxable earnings. As a result, workers earning less than the cap ($127,200 in 2017) pay a higher Social Security payroll tax rate than those who make more.

Congress set the cap in 1977 and indexed it to average wage growth, intending it to cover 90% of all wages.[16] But over the past several decades, wage growth among lower- and middle-income Americans has slowed, while wages at the top have grown dramatically. As a result, the cap now covers just 82% of aggregate wages.[17]

This rising inequality in earnings accounts for 43.5% of the projected 75-year shortfall in Social Security funding.[18] Put another way: if the cap on taxable income had continued to cover 90% of total earnings since 1983, the Trust Fund would have at least an additional $1.1 trillion today.[19]

Scrapping the cap now would extend the Trust Fund’s surplus until 2087 – certainly far enough in the future for policymakers to make additional adjustments if necessary.[20] Only the richest 6.1% of workers (less than 1 in 15) would pay more.[21] It’s a popular idea: two-thirds of Americans support requiring high-income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages (as is already the case with Medicare taxes).[22]

Expand and improve Social Security to create a more equitable and secure future for all

To ensure Social Security continues to protect the economic security of working Americans, lawmakers should enact policies that expand and improve Social Security for today’s workers and families, including:

Raising benefits overall: Adjusting the benefit formula to raise benefits for those who have had careers in low-wage occupations – such as childcare, restaurant service, or home health care – would better protect the financial security of people just scraping by, particularly older women and people of color.

Protecting the very elderly: Living to extreme old age, or outliving (or not having) a spouse greatly increases the risk of poverty. “Bump-ups” in benefits for seniors living past a certain age and increasing benefits for elderly widows and widowers would reduce financial insecurity among the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Honoring time caring for family: Caring for children or aging family members can cause many people, especially women, to reduce their hours or stop working, greatly affecting their retirement benefits. Reducing the number of years’ earnings used to calculate retirement benefits from 35 to 30 or 28 can eliminate this caregiving penalty. It would also help Millennials and others who had reduced access to employment due to economic downturns.

Restoring student survivor benefits: Before 1981, children of retired, deceased, or disabled workers continued receiving benefits through age 22 if they attended college. Now benefits end once a young person turns 18 and finishes high school. Reinstating college benefits could help children and their families achieve their dreams, as well as reduce socioeconomic barriers to education and lifetime opportunities.

Adopting the CPI-E inflation index: Over the past eight years, the current COLA formula has led to average monthly benefit increases of just over 1% and no increase at all in three of those years.[23] The 2016 COLA was just 0.3%, or about $4.00/month for the average senior – barely the average cost of one Lipitor pill. Adopting the consumer price index for the elderly, or CPI-E, would be a more accurate means of calculating adequate Social Security COLAs.

Restoring office access & services: The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) expenses are self-funded and account for less than one penny of every dollar spent. While demand for SSA services (and staff workloads) have risen to record highs, over the past six years, the SSA’s operating budget has shrunk by 10% (after adjusting for inflation) due to Congressional budget cuts. This has resulted in the closure of one field office and the loss of 776 employees in Washington.[24] Restoring full funding would help ensure people have dependable and easily accessible in-person service at Social Security offices, often at critical moments in their lives.

Endnotes

[1] Based on 1) American Community Survey, Table DP03 – Selected Economic Characteristics, 2016 1-year estimates, http://factfinder.census.gov and 2) U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics, “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County”, 2016, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/oasdi_sc/2016/.

[2] U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics, “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County”, 2016, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/oasdi_sc/2016/.

[3] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Social Security Keeps 22 Million Americans Out of Poverty: A State-By-State Analysis”, October 2016, http://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/social-security-keeps-22-million-americans-out-of-poverty-a-state-by-state.

[4] U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics, “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County”, 2016, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/oasdi_sc/2016/.

[5]  In this case “children” refers to individuals under 18 and includes neither disabled adult children, nor individuals age 18-19. Social Security Works, “Social Security Works for Washington,” August 2016, http://www.socialsecurityworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/WA2016.pdf.

[6] U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics, “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County”, 2016, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/oasdi_sc/2016/.

[7] Calculations based on: 1) Personal Income Data from Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table SA1, Personal income summary, https://www.bea.gov/ and 2) U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics, “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County”, 2016, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/oasdi_sc/2016/.

[8] 2016 calculations derived from research produced by AARP Public Policy Institute, “Social Security’s Impact on the National Economy”, October 2013, https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/public_policy_institute/econ_sec/2013/social-security-impact-national-economy-AARP-ppi-econ-sec.pdf.

[9] U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics, “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County”, 2016, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/oasdi_sc/2016/.

[10] The Atlantic, “House GOP Budget Plan Cuts Medicare and Social Security,” July 2017, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/house-gop-budget-plan-puts-medicare-and-social-security-on-the-line/533991/; The Hill, “The Trump budget cuts Social Security, plain and simple,” May 2017, http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/335618-the-trump-budget-cuts-social-security-plain-and-simple.

[11] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Raising Social Security’s Retirement Age Cuts Benefits for All Retirees”, January 2016, http://www.cbpp.org/blog/raising-social-securitys-retirement-age-cuts-benefits-for-all-retirees.

[12] Social Security can only spend money collected from the designated payroll tax or from the investment of past surpluses and is legally barred from deficit spending or borrowing from the general budget. Surplus contributions held in the Social Security Trust Fund are invested in special issues of U.S. government bonds, redeemable at any time at face value. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Policy Basics: Understanding the Social Security Trust Funds,” September 2017, http://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/policy-basics-understanding-the-social-security-trust-funds.

[13] National Academy of Social Insurance, “Strengthening Social Security for the Long Run,” November 2010, http://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/SS_Brief_035.pdf.

[14] After 2034, even with no action by Congress, Social Security would still pay 79 cents of every dollar of earned benefits. Social Security Trustees, 2017 Social Security Trustees Report, July 2017, http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TR/2017/.

[15] Social Security Office of Retirement Policy, “Taxable Maximum Earners,” March 2015, https://www.ssa.gov/retirementpolicy/fact-sheets/tax-max-earners.html.

[16] Legislation in 1977 fully phased in tax cap changes by 1981, after which the cap was indexed to wage growth. See: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “No COLA for 2016 Will Affect Medicare Premiums and Social Security Finances,” October 2015, http://www.cbpp.org/blog/no-cola-for-2016-will-affect-medicare-premiums-and-social-security-finances.

[17] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Increasing Payroll Taxes Would Strengthen Social Security,” September 2016, http://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/increasing-payroll-taxes-would-strengthen-social-security.

[18] Center for Economic and Policy Research, “The Impact of the Upward Redistribution of Wage Income on Social Security Solvency,” February 2013, http://cepr.net/blogs/cepr-blog/the-impact-of-the-upward-redistribution-of-wageincome-on-social-security-solvency.

[19] Center for American Progress, “The Effect of Rising Inequality on Social Security”, February 2015, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2015/02/10/106373/the-effect-of-rising-inequality-on-social-security/.

[20] Congressional Research Service, “Social Security: Raising or Eliminating the Taxable Earnings Base,” March 2017, http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32896.pdf.

[21] Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Who Would Pay More if the Social Security Payroll Tax Cap Were Raised or Scrapped?,” January 2015, http://cepr.net/documents/ss-cap-update-2015-01.pdf.

[22] Social Security Works, “Polling Memo: Americans’ Views on Social Security,” September 2016, http://www.socialsecurityworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Updated-polling-memo-10-17.pdf.

[23] Social Security Administration, “Cost of Living Adjustments”, http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/colaseries.html

[24] Social Security Works, “Social Security Works for Washington,” August 2016, http://www.socialsecurityworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/WA2016.pdf.


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A Fair Deal at WorkPosted in %s, Retirement SecurityPosted in %s, Social Security

Presentation | May 31, 2017 | By John Burbank

Executive Summary

We can protect Seattle’s great quality of life and lead the way on community investments in affordable housing, homelessness solutions, educational equity and climate action by fixing our upside-down tax code.


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An Inclusive EconomyPosted in %s, Progressive Tax Reform

Report | March 31, 2017

Executive Summary

Our Mission

The Economic Opportunity Institute’s mission is to build an economy that works for everyone by advancing public policies that promote educational opportunity, good jobs, healthy families and workplaces, and a dignified retirement for all.

Heather’s Story

2016 Annual Report McCrory PhotoLife is unpredictable, but paid family and medical leave can provide some stability. EOI’s leadership has brought Washington to the brink of winning a statewide paid family and medical leave program, so people can take time off to recover from a serious health condition – or like Heather McCrory, care for a new child: “I was waking up every hour, then getting up in the morning to get him to day care, running to go feed him every two hours, and trying to get work done. And I had a lot going on at work…so it was very stressful. I look back on that first year and with all of the great and joyful things that happened, it’s kind of shadowed by having to work and how that experience was pretty miserable.”

Program Highlights

2016 Annual Report By The NumbersPaid Sick Days: 2016 was a crucial year for workers in Washington. Voters passed Raise Up Washington (Initiative 1433), which secures a $13.50 minimum wage and guarantees workers across the state the right to earn and use paid sick and safe leave. Our earlier victories for paid sick leave in Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane helped lay the foundation for this statewide win – and EOI provided crucial data and policy analysis for drafting the initiative.

With years of policy, communications, and organizing experience, we helped catalyze the crucial grassroots power and political will necessary for the successful campaign to pass I-1433. But opponents of fair labor standards haven’t given up, so we will continue our work: testifying against bills attacking the measure in Olympia, and participating in the rulemaking process to ensure full and fair implementation of this progressive law, which was overwhelmingly supported by Washington voters.

Tax Reform: Washington’s current tax system punishes low- and middle-income families, while letting wealthy households and corporations off the hook. As a result, funding for basic public services like education, transportation, and housing is chronically inadequate. In 2016, EOI took bold action to build and advance a local solution: we helped catalyze Opportunity for Olympia (Initiative 1), which proposed funding the first year of community college for high school graduates in Olympia via a 1.5% tax on household income in excess of $200,000.

While the initiative lost by a narrow margin (48% voted in favor), the energy and momentum continues. EOI is providing critical support to a coalition working to “Trump-Proof Seattle” with new progressive revenue in the face of potentially significant losses of federal funds.

Our Commitment to Racial Equity

To build an economy that works for everyone, we must acknowledge the structural and institutional racism that manifests as ongoing and devastating economic, educational, health and other disparities facing our communities. Toward that end, in 2016 EOI convened a Race and Social Justice Workgroup to begin integrating a racial equity lens into our public policy research, communications and advocacy, internal governance, and external relations. We still have much to learn, and we will continue to reflect and act with courage, openness, and humility.

Financial Summary

2016 Annual Report Financial Summary

Preliminary figures, subject to CPA review; represented on an accrual basis for fiscal year 1/1/16 to 12/31/16

3 Ways You Can Make An Impact

You can help build an economy that works for everyone.

  1. Support EOI with a donation, one time or monthly. Ask your employer if they will match your gift – many do! Visit eoionline.org/donate.
  2. Stay informed and share policy news with your friends– visit eoionline.org/news to get our newsletter, like us on Facebook at www.fb.me/eoionline, or follow us on Twitter at @eoionline.
  3. Ask your company or organization to sponsor EOI’s annual event – it’s a win-win for both! Email Sam Hatzenbeler, Development Director, for details at sam@eoionline.org.
makini stan dual for newsletter

Makini Howell, 2017 Board President, and Stan Sorscher, 2016 Board President

Thank You!

“Families are struggling with diminishing health care, a lack of paid family leave, fewer opportunities for early learning and higher education, and reduced retirement security. President Trump’s message and values threaten basic economic security for too many of our neighbors. At the Economic Opportunity Institute, we are stepping up to this challenge with the support of allies like you. On behalf of EOI’s Board of Directors and staff, thank you for your dedication to a stronger future for our communities.”


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Fact Sheet | February 10, 2017 | By Marilyn Watkins

Executive Summary

The mission of the Economic Opportunity Institute is to build an economy that works for everyone by advancing public policies that promote educational opportunity, good jobs, healthy families & workplaces, and a dignified retirement for all.

Priorities for Action

Paid Family and Medical Leave: At some point in life, everyone needs extended time away from work to care for themselves or a loved one. But without access to paid leave, Washington workers have to put the health of their families aside to keep their jobs. Goal: Pass a statewide paid family and medical leave program that provides equitable access to time to care for a new child or when a serious health condition strikes.

Equal Pay: Washington needs more economy-boosting jobs – and fewer economy-busting ones. Ensuring women are paid fairly and have equal access to career opportunities means their families can buy the basics, and helps our entire economy grow. Goal: Pass legislation giving workers new tools to help ensure they’re being paid fairly and opportunities aren’t limited by old stereotypes.

Childcare Worker Compensation: Washington has taken steps toward building a high-quality early childhood education (ECE) system. However, wages for people working in child care remain near poverty level. A well-compensated workforce is essential for promoting staff retention and improving quality of care. Goal: Fund pay incentives for childcare teachers pursuing additional education or experience in the state budget.

Tax Reform: It takes collective resources – that is, taxes – to build thriving communities where everyone has an equal chance to succeed. But Washington’s long-outdated tax system can’t keep pace with the education and infrastructure our kids and communities need. Goal: Pass an income tax in one or more Washington cities to fund local/community investments as a step toward fair and ample local revenue.

Preparation for Rapid Response

Minimum Wage & Paid Sick Leave: Washington voters overwhelmingly supported Initiative 1433 – raising the state’s minimum wage and ensuring all workers can earn and use paid sick leave. Now the State is writing rules to implement sick leave. Meanwhile, conservative legislators are planning efforts to weaken the new law. Goal: Partner with labor and community allies to keep Washington’s labor standards strong.

Social Security: Social Security provides financial security and stable incomes to more than 60 million Americans. But advocates for cuts and privatization are now working at the highest levels of the federal administration and Congress. Goal: Work with the Social Security Works – Washington coalition and allies nationwide to defend Social Security, and promote policy alternatives to protect, enhance and expand it.

Health Care: The Affordable Care Act and accompanying Medicaid expansion have measurably improved people’s health and saved lives – but the results of the 2016 election jeopardize health coverage for millions of Washington residents. Goal: Explore state-based solutions to maintain and expand health care coverage, partnering with allies to implement these measures as soon as necessary or possible.

Research and Policy Development

Overtime Compensation: The salary threshold for overtime pay hasn’t budged in decades. Washington can establish its own overtime rules to ensure people are compensated fairly for working longer than normal hours, implemented in a way that gives businesses adequate time to adapt. Goal: Provide economic analysis for an improved statewide overtime pay rule.

Community College Access: A growing share of job openings require at least some college – but increasing tuition puts that opportunity out of reach for too many. Increased public funding, and a system of post-graduation income-based contributions called Pay It Forward (PIF), are a better alternative. Goals: Identify new sources of revenue to support greater college access; develop a PIF plan for Applied BA programs (third year of community college), supported by funding outside of the state budget.

Affordable Childcare: Child care is in short supply and demand is high. Providers work on thin profit margins with standards for child safety and staffing ratios that can’t be compromised. As a result, it’s often a Washington family’s biggest expense after housing; for single-parent families, it can cost more. Goal: Research and develop policy/funding plans to make quality childcare affordable and accessible for all Washington families, while boosting pay for teachers.

Universal Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten: High-quality pre-K benefits all kids – improving educational equity for low-income children as well as overall student achievement. Programs can take place in a variety of settings: public schools, private non-profit and for-profit centers, and in regulated home childcare. Goal: Research and develop policy/funding plan to make high-quality pre-K available to all Washington families.

Ending Mass Incarceration: Many criminal-justice policies disproportionately and systematically target the poor and people of color for incarceration, and make getting a job or housing after a conviction difficult. Goal: Publish research on the impact of modern criminal justice policies on individual, family and community well-being.

Payday Lending: Washington residents living paycheck-to-paycheck can easily be trapped in a cycle of debt and poverty as a result of high-interest payday loans, provided by a banking industry that preys particularly on poor communities and people of color. Goal: Ensure state consumer protections stay intact; research policies that encourage banks and credit unions to expand offerings of low-interest short term loans.


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Research and Publications

Latest Blog Posts

New Study: High Minimum Wage in Seattle Caused No Employment Losses

Economic Opportunity Institute | September 6, 2018

Employers Should Stop Penny Pinching on Health Coverage

Economic Opportunity Institute | September 4, 2018

You Pay How Much for Child Care?

Sarah Clark | August 15, 2018

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