Mine isn't the scariest story out there...

Below is a message from Lane, a worker, mom, and Working Washington member in Seattle.

My name is Lane, and I’m writing to you today to talk to you about the gender pay gap in Washington. It’s going to take a lot of work to turn things around and make progress on equal pay for women — but there’s one way we can help make it happen now.

There’s a vote coming up on HB 1506, the equal pay bill, in the Washington House. I’d like to share my own story with you, and let you know why I support HB 1506.

My daughter Emily is 16, and I was a stay-at-home mom for most of her life. But when I got divorced a few years ago, I needed to go back to work.

Me with my daughter, Emily, when she was younger

Me with my daughter, Emily, when she was younger

I have a master’s degree and I’ve held management-level jobs, so I thought I’d be able to re-enter the workforce smoothly. But I was wrong.

To keep up with skyrocketing rents and cost of living in Seattle, I spent a year working towards a paralegal certificate while holding down three part-time restaurant jobs and freelance coaching and training.

I got straight As in paralegal school and served as the president of the school's Law Association. But despite this dedication and proven achievements, it took me six months of interviewing before I landed a job in a law firm.

If you've been out of the workforce entirely for 10 years, it's really hard to get in anywhere. The job of being a mom is so poorly respected, it doesn't translate into desirable work experience at the interview table.

Mine isn’t the scariest story out there, but I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall: between entry-level legal assistant job pay and side jobs catering, I still barely scrape by. It was hard enough for me to re-enter the workforce, and for women who face discrimination based on their gender or race, it’s even harder. Many women, especially women who left the workforce to care for their families, are earning less than a living wage.

If we take steps towards pay equity, it will be easier for single working moms, and other women, to get by.

Right now, women in Washington make 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The gap in earnings is even more severe for women of color, who are paid just 60 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.

If we want to change that, we need to update our laws to make sure employers don’t get away with paying women less and giving them fewer opportunities. That’s where HB 1506 comes in.

The bill would strengthen Washington’s Equal Pay Act with provisions like prohibiting discrimination in career opportunities, making it illegal for employers to prevent workers from discussing their wages with each other, penalizing employers who retaliate against workers for filing a complaint, and making employers pay damages to workers if they discriminate.

I’m asking you to support this bill in two ways:

  1. Do you have a story about how the pay gap has affected your life? Click here to share your story.

  2. Send a letter to your state legislators so they know where Washington’s workers stand on HB 1506.

If we stand together, speak out, and share our stories, we can make real change for women in Washington. The bill will be up for a vote soon— so let’s make ourselves heard!

Thanks for your support,
Lane, Working WA member

P.S. Want to learn more about HB 1506 and the other big efforts to fight the pay gap in WA this year? Click here to check out Working Washington’s web page with more info!

Saw the sign?

The real story here is how this business owner says right there in red type he’s committed to finding a way to keep prices down while also providing good working conditions as the city and state have required.

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We still don’t have wage parity — so what are we going to do about it?

The gender wage gap and its causes have been studied fairly extensively, though a lot of questions remain unanswered. We know that some of the gap is due to discrimination, and some is due to things like job segregation, differences in household responsibilities, and other factors that may sometimes influence each other.

The gender wage gap is narrower than it used to be, but has been stubbornly hovering around the same level for years. The gap is even wider for women of color. The racial wage gap is not as well studied, and also has seen less improvement over the decades — and in some cases may even be getting worse. It’s increasingly clear that we won’t reach pay parity without actively working towards it.

Though the pay gap is a national problem, there are steps we can take at the local level to address it. Newly elected Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (endorsed by Working Washington) has a plan to address the wage gap in Seattle. Her pay equity platform includes a salary history ban and protections against retaliation for workers who ask why they’re getting paid less.

The Washington Legislature has introduced legislation designed to address pay equity in our state. The State House and Senate have related bills, HB 1506 and SB 5140, that would make some changes to the state’s Equal Pay Act, which has not been updated since 1943. If the bills are passed, workers will receive more protection from discrimination based on gender, like being placed into career tracks with lower compensation, including benefits. Workers will also be protected from company policies — such as “pay secrecy” policies and others — that prevent them from finding out if they have been discriminated against. In addition, workers will have access to better means of enforcement.

The thinking behind ending pay secrecy policies is that discouraging employees from discussing their pay can perpetuate gender-based pay gaps. Women can’t advocate for equal pay in their workplace if they don’t know their male coworkers are making more. In fact, several high-profile wage discrimination cases, such as Lilly Ledbetter’s suit against Goodyear, only came about when someone gave the plaintiff a tip that they were being underpaid. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed in 1935, already makes pay secrecy policies illegal in many instances. But many employers and employees don’t know about this protection, so state laws like HB 1506 and SB 5140 clarify a right many workers don’t know they have, offer better enforcement so we don’t have to rely on an unfriendly federal government, and also cover some employers that were left out of the NLRA (like government workers, agricultural workers, and railway/airport workers).

Another bill, HB 1533, would prevent employers from asking about a job applicant’s salary history, and would require employers to share the salary range for a position when an applicant asks. Even well-meaning employers can perpetuate the wage gap when they base pay on an employee’s salary history. Since women and people of color earn lower wages on average than men and white people, the practice of requiring applicants to disclose their past salaries can continue the problem. Last year, the bill passed in committee but unfortunately didn’t make it to a full House vote.

Equal pay and transparency laws like HB 1533, HB 1506, and SB 5140 are a new legislative trend in addressing the pay gap, and many states and cities across the US are passing laws to help bring us pay parity a little sooner. For example:

  • Massachusetts passed a bill in 2016 banning salary history questions as well as requiring equal pay and requiring employers to allow employees to discuss their salaries.
  • California has one of the strongest equal pay acts, passed last year, and may add a salary history ban this year.
  • Maryland also passed very comprehensive equal pay legislation in 2016.
  • Philadelphia passed a salary history ban in early 2017, though it’s currently facing a legal fight from the city’s chamber of commerce.
  • New York City also passed a salary history ban in 2017.
  • And DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes has introduced federal legislation banning salary history questions.

There’s no reason Washington can’t be next in the 2018 legislative session! But legislators will need to hear from you. Click here to tell your state senators & representatives that you support pay equity measures like HB 1506.

Place your bid!

We have officially launched our first annual 12 Days of Giving — an entirely online auction where you can bid on fun experiences and unique gifts for everyone on your shopping list. That’s right, no more frantic last-minute shopping trips or all-night baking sessions!

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Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance wins support from Seattle mayoral candidates

Big news: both candidates for mayor are supporting a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights! Here’s how it happened.

Politics has its ups and downs, but here’s something that’s heartening to see: both candidates for mayor of Seattle have released plans for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

If you’re wondering how that possibly happened, the reason is pretty simple: workers made it happen. Domestic workers in Seattle have started organizing with the Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance (SDWA), headed by Working Washington. They’ve raised their issues at public forums. And they’ve built support. Now, both candidates have agreed to commit to working with them the first year in office for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and a commission to continue long-term conversations about workers’ rights and strengthening working conditions for domestic workers.

Here’s the backstory.

This summer, on June 1st, at a Who Will Work for Workers candidate forum held at the Labor Temple, candidates for mayor were asked how they would support domestic workers’ rights.

There, both candidates said they supported a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Jenny Durkan recalled her experiences as a US attorney working on human trafficking, and spoke to the need to "educate the domestic workers so they know their rights, and make sure the employers are giving the wages and benefits they have to, and make sure we’re bringing attention to that issue.”

Cary Moon called for an expansion of the Office of Labor Standards. Instead of having the responsibility for enforcement fall on nannies, she suggested the city should certify employers and show them what their responsibilities are in order to make sure domestic workers are being treated fairly.

It was good to hear both candidates were committed...but we wanted more details. So Caitlin, a Seattle nanny, followed up on June 15th, at a mayoral forum co-hosted by Working Washington and SEIU 925 focused on affordable childcare. Caitlin asked the candidates to expand on their statements of support and answer the question: “What concrete pieces would go into the Bill of Rights? How do grey market or non-union workers, like myself, build long-lasting policy change?”

Here’s how Jenny Durkan answered: “A Bill of Rights has to both protect the rights themselves, give adequate notice and education, and have enforcement. And the rights have to go to what you’re paid, what your right for breaks are, and what your benefits are. The employers have to be told, and the employees have to be told, and then there has to be an enforcement mechanism. It’s happened in a number of towns and it’s actually been successful in some areas.”

And here’s how Cary Moon answered: “I think the Bill of Rights needs to tackle several things. First it needs to talk about pay rates and overtime and the normal work rules that protect the safety of the workers and the kids. It needs to talk about staffing levels. It needs to talk about benefits. Domestic workers deserve unemployment insurance, they deserve paid sick leave, and they deserve medical insurance. And we need to provide all of those in this system... It should have a component for education for both the employers and the employees so everybody understands what the rules are, and it should have funded enforcement so the city can hold employers accountable.”

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With those answers, the candidates moved from general support to something a lot more specific. And it got even better when both candidates marked Labor Day by publishing even more detailed plans for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

On November 2nd and 3rd, workers met with the candidates and asked them to sign on to a letter and agree to take the following two actions their first year in office:

  1. Pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in the city of Seattle.

  2. Create a city commission that facilitates negotiation of wages, working conditions, portable benefits and workers’ right to organize. The Commission would:

    1. Include domestic workers, so they have real representation and a real voice in their industries.

    2. Ensure a livable wage.

    3. Have a mandate to solicit public input from their fellow workers, advocates, and industry experts on issues that affect the health and well-being of domestic workers, including wages, working conditions, and scheduling rights.

    4. Have broad mandates to set legally binding industry standards regarding wages, benefits, working conditions and other issues.

Both candidates said YES to working on this with SDWA and Working Washington the first year they’re in office! They demonstrated to domestic workers that they’ve heard their voices, and are dedicated to making modern labor standards the reality for such a large portion of the local workforce.  

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These were big wins — and workers made it happen.

By getting organized, standing up, and speaking out, nannies and housecleaners with SDWA are making an impact, changing the conversation, and setting the stage for workers to continue to break new ground in Seattle.


Here are your Qs for Trump's Dept. of Labor nominees...

When we heard that Trump nominated two anti-labor nominees to administrative positions at the Department of Labor, Working WA members stepped up to tell Senator Patty Murray what to ask them about at their confirmation hearings.

Cheryl Stanton, who Trump nominated as the head of the Wage and Hour Division, has spent nine years at a law firm representing big corporations that were accused of wage theft & misclassifying drivers. Not only that, she was also sued last year for failing to pay her OWN house cleaners!

And David Zatezalo, Trump’s pick for head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, is a former mining exec at a coal company. His company has been cited for 160 health & safety violations by the very agency he’s being nominated to run — including a roof collapse that killed one miner.

Washington’s own Senator Patty Murray is a key member of the committee that held confirmation hearings for Stanton & Zatezalo. Sen. Murray said she was disappointed with the timing of the hearings (which coincided with two Senate votes) and their length (just 90 minutes), which didn’t allow her to ask the questions she wanted to ask. At the end of the hearings, she said she planned to submit inquiries for the DOL nominees in writing instead.

This week, the committee narrowly approved both Stanton and Zatezalo in a 12-11 vote (with Sen. Murray voting against both), which means their nominations will be passed on to the full Senate for a vote. As the Senate decides whether to confirm these nominees, here are a few questions that hundreds of Working WA members have for them:

  • Cheryl Stanton: What do you have to say about your history representing employers in wage disputes?
  • Cheryl Stanton: Why haven’t you paid your own house cleaners?
  • David Zatezalo: What were you doing when your company was cited in a roof collapse that killed a worker?

And here are some of the other questions we have for these anti-worker nominees…

For Cheryl Stanton, the Wage and Hour Division nominee:

  • Will you advocate for employees? (Madeline, Seattle)
  • How do you feel about an increase to the federal minimum wage? (Heather, Bellevue)
  • How about paid maternal leave to close the wage gap? (David)
  • How about pay equity for women? (Sandra, Vashon)
  • What are your current investments? (Thomas)

For David Zatezalo, the Mine Safety & Health Administration nominee:

  • What have you done to support workers that you think qualifies you to be in charge of Mine Safety or Health Administration? (Ronald)
  • How about putting displaced coal miners to work remediating old coal mines? (David)
  • Do you consider 17 mining violations/$500 thousand in fines while president of mining companies a good record? (Jerry)
  • Were all your company’s violation fines paid in full? (Thomas)
  • What are you doing to ensure safety inspections for the miners that won't get biased reports? (Geri, Port Townsend)
  • Will you uphold OSHA regulations? (Madeline, Seattle)

For both nominees:

  • What are your qualifications for this job? (Patrick, Seattle & Jean, Seattle)
  • With your past record, how are you going to advocate for workers? (Jerry, Enumclaw)
  • Why do you want this job? (Roseann)
  • Who would you represent if nominated? (James)
  • Why do you think you can represent workers, or do you just plan on giving your old bosses more breaks? (Wesley, Vancouver)
  • Why do you want to advocate for workers when it is obvious that you abhor them? (Glen)
  • What makes you think you can do this job? Are you familiar with the fox in the henhouse? (Dennis)
  • How do you feel about the push for $15 per hour federal minimum wage? (David, Kirkland)
  • With your background, why should any worker believe you're qualified and committed to protecting workers? (Paige, Shoreline)
  • Whose side are you on, the workers or the employers?  Can you fairly run your agencies? (Robert)
  • How would you encourage union organizing? (Joan)
  • They wouldn't appoint a general to lose a war. So why have an anti-labor Labor Secretary? (William)
  • If you were in a worker’s position, would you feel confident in nominees with similar history as yours to represent you? (Isaac, Bothell)
  • How can you expect to regulate the corporations when your employment history has been in those industries? (Randy, Seattle)
  • What do you believe is the primary directive of the Dept. of Labor? Do you intend to foster or subvert it? (Richard, Vashon Island)
  • What were your revenue sources in the last 5 years? How would those sources affect your administration? (Howard)
  • Where do you stand on expanded labor rights for workers in the workplace? (Robert)
  • You seem to believe that profit has more value than people and the planet — can you please explain? (Don, Kettle Falls)
  • WHY! (Joe)

Thanks for submitting your questions for the DOL nominees & making your voice heard!