Panel at Museum of Flight
Members show support for
paid family and medical leave
Chad Meis would really like to see paid family and medical leave – not just because he plans to become a foster parent. “It has a direct impact on productivity,” he
said, based on what he has seen at work, “when
new parents do not have enough paid leave.”
He came to the SPEEA panel discussion event
at the Museum of Flight May 6 to learn more
about the legislative effort to enact paid family
and medical leave.
He joined about 100 members and their families listening to a panel of speakers including
Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-33rd
district. She is a prime sponsor of Senate Bill
(SB5032) that complements the House Bill (HB
1116) introduced by Rep. June Robinson. The
bills call for compensation (drawn from a pooled
fund) for the following:
• Personal health condition
• A family member with a health condition
• Child birth, adoption or foster parenting
“As you know, 177 other countries have this
(benefit),” Sen. Keiser said. The legislation,
which has support from businesses, calls for a
percentage of funding paid for by the employer
and employee, paying into a statewide fund.
Sen. Keiser emphasized the research showing
how this policy in other countries significantly
reduces infant mortality rates, along with other
benefits that make families stronger and fathers
more involved in their children’s lives. But she also
shared how this policy helps all ages. For example,
she took a month off when her mother was dying.
“It was the most valuable time I spent with my
mom,” she said. “This is for all stages of life.”
This is a benefit most Washington state workers
do not have, added panelist Marilyn Watkins,
policy director for the Economic Opportunity
Institute. Only 13% of the private sector in
Washington state provide paid family leave that
is separate from vacation or sick leave. Of those
who provided the benefit, typically only higher-
paid workers receive it. Only 2-3% of lower wage
workers have this type of benefit.
One in four women go back to work within two
weeks of giving birth and 60% are back to work
within three months, Watkins said.
Polls show support
Nicole Grant, executive secretary-treasurer of
the Martin Luther King County Labor Council,
showed results of polling on paid leave, which
about 60% of those polled support legislative
That support crosses political party (both
Democrats and Republicans) and both the urban
Puget Sound corridor and the more rural parts
of the state.
An independent research firm reached about 800
likely voters. The paid leave policy generated the
most support in the Puget Sound and Yakima,
which is in the rural part of the state.
Overall, more than six in 10 supported paying $2
a week per employee matched by the employer
(for each employee), according to the research.
Voters also favored tax credits for small businesses (with about 20 employees or less) by 60%.
Panel speaker Council Rep Carrie Rule shared
her story about juggling work and family. With
her firstborn, she went back to work two weeks
after coming home from the hospital after
delivery. She also took her son to work with her
because she couldn’t afford daycare.
Since starting at Boeing, she has given birth to
three more children. With short-term disability
paying a partial income up to six or eight weeks,
she is better off than before. But to have another
few weeks of bonding with her youngest, she
plans to take unpaid leave.
After the panel discussion, members asked questions about how the policy would work, when
it would be implemented (if it passes this year,
expect the benefits to phase in over two years)
and how it would work with union contracts
(the bill calls for every worker, whether or not
they have a union contract).
Council Rep Daniel Peters, who introduced
the speakers, concluded with remarks on how
this relates to Boeing and SPEEA’s contract.
“We have had a lot of questions since Boeing
implemented three weeks of paid family leave
for non-union employees,” he said, but Boeing
leaders announced the company will not extend
the benefit to SPEEA-represented employees.
By pushing on legislative front, SPEEA can support more workers. “It’s not just for ourselves,
it’s for the community as well,” he said. “If the
bill becomes law, all workers benefit.”
“It was great,” said Brad Kibbel, a Bothell
Council Rep, about the panel discussion. “I
was pleased to hear the atmosphere is positive to
pass paid family leave,” adding Airbus employees
receive paid family leave. “It’s time for all Boeing
workers to get family leave.”
SPEEA President Ryan Rule is shown here with his youngest
daughter, Sirena, at the Museum of Flight event, where his
wife, Council Rep Carrie Rule, joined a panel of speakers.
Council Rep Gordon Yip brought his family to the paid family and medical leave event. From left, Jayda, Gordon,
Julia, Helen and Juna.