MomsRising Helps Make Washington Second State to Adopt Paid Leave
May 8, 2007
New Online Activist Group Generated Thousands of Legislative Contacts, Held ‘Power of ONEsie’ Event in Support of Measure
MomsRising, the rapidly-growing grassroots online organization for moms (and anyone who has a mom), today applauded Governor Chris Gregoire for signing into law a strong paid family leave insurance bill. MomsRising was a driving force behind the measure, generating more than ten thousand emailed letters to legislators, as well as calls and deliveries of cookies, flowers and Polaroid photos of parents and children who would benefit from this long overdue policy. In March, MomsRising held a “Power of ONEsie” display, exhibiting more than 300 specially-decorated baby outfits on the State Capital Campus.
“Today is a great day for Washington families,” said MomsRising Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, who lives in Kirkland. “By signing this legislation, Governor Gregoire is helping ensure that more new babies in our state get a healthy start. She is also joining Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Senator Karen Keiser, and the other courageous members of the House and Senate who stood up to the corporate lobbyists who strongly opposed this crucial family-friendly measure. ”
MomsRising joined a coalition of over 50 organizations and businesses who strongly advocated for this policy. In particular, the years of hard work by the Economic Opportunity Institute, the Washington State Labor Council, and other members of the Washington Family Leave Coalition were critical to passing this policy.
The new law establishes five weeks of paid leave of up to $250 per week for qualifying workers who need to care for new children, beginning on October 1, 2009. Paid leave must be taken concurrently with the unpaid leave the federal Family & Medical Leave Act provides. The new law also establishes a joint task force on family leave insurance that will make recommendations about future permanent financing by January 1, 2008.
MomsRising members across the state and the country supported the effort to pass the legislation into law, meeting with key lawmakers, placing hundreds of calls and sending thousands of emails to legislators, mailing in decorated “Onesies” for the March exhibit and helping deliver cookies to legislators with messages urging them to support the bill.
“The Family Leave bill would not have passed without the great work of MomsRising. Being able to mobilize thousands of constituents to e-mail our Governor and individual lawmakers made all the difference,” said Senator Keiser, a prime sponsor of the bill. “It’s a great model for an authentic political movement made up of people who are unable to attend rallies or raise huge amounts of campaign donations. It’s a way for real people to make a real difference.”
MomsRising member Yvonne Zick and her husband Ken launched their own campaign, wearing MomsRising t-shirts every day until the bill was signed into law.
“When Ken and I committed to wear MomsRising shirts everyday until this bill passed, we believed we would be wearing the same shirts everyday for the next few years,” said Zick. “Instead, our community spoke loudly that it supported this bill, our government listened intently and, when this bill is signed into law, we will be taking off our daily uniform after only four months. While we will be setting our Rosie & Baby t-shirts aside, what will not be set aside is that we can help to make history. We look forward to the year 2009 and the lucky babies who will have more time with their parents.”
Washington is the second state to adopt paid family leave. California passed a paid leave bill in 2002; it has been in effect since 2004. According to a recent report by Dr. Jody Heymann of Harvard and McGill Universities, the United States is one of just four countries (of 173 studied) that does not guarantee paid maternity leave – the others are Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.