Marilyn Watkins: The importance of family and medical leave insurance

Testimony of Marilyn Watkins before the Washington State House Committee on Labor & Workforce Development on HB 1457 – Implementing family and medical leave insurance, February 5, 2013.

Good morning. I’m Marilyn Watkins of the Economic Opportunity Institute. I also represent the Washington Work and Family Coalition, over 30 organizations representing 100s of thousands of Washington family members, workers, business owners, and voters.

It should never be a matter of luck whether a parent can afford to spend the first precious weeks and months of life with their newborn child.

It shouldn’t be a matter of luck whether someone can recover from surgery before dragging themselves back to work.

Yet most workers only get a few days or weeks at most of paid leave – and over half of lower wage workers get no paid leave at all.

5 states representing over 20% of the US workforce already provide simple insurance plans like this. Studies show these programs work:

  • Women in states with family leave or medical insurance are twice as likely to have paid leave after having a baby than women in other states, and they take longer leaves.
  • That means babies breast feed for longer, have higher levels of immunization and other well-baby care, and new moms have less postpartum depression.
  • And moms in these 5 states were more likely to return to work in the year following a birth and to have higher wages over time, and less likely to be on public assistance.

Half of births in Washington are now covered by Medicaid, so healthier mothers and babies mean public saving.

With family and medical leave insurance, the state will save with elder care as well.

FMLI is the best investment we can make as a state. There’s nothing more important to our future than our children, and building the health and economic security of our families is the best medicine for our state economy.

Please finish what you started in 2007 and pass HB 1457. Thank you.

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