University of Washington, Councilmembers Convene Paid Family Leave Symposium

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Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Lorena González and Lisa Herbold joined with the University of Washington to co-host a Paid Parental Leave Symposium at UW yesterday, where elected officials, business leaders, worker advocates, and researchers convened to discuss the scope and tools available to consider paid family leave policies for Seattle workers.  Over 60 people participated in the symposium and heard research findings, program comparisons, and experiences of existing programs from other cities and states.

“I wanted this symposium to be a meeting of the minds, where employers, advocates and scholars could have a voice to express the challenges, opportunities and evidence as Seattle pursues a paid family leave policy for our private sector workers,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia). “There’s a lot to learn, but I know we can create a Seattle program that works for everyone.”

Speakers yesterday included:

  • Ellen Love, San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement
  • Jared Make, a Better Balance
  • Dan Spaulding, Zillow Group
  • Teresa Mosqueda, Washington State Labor Council
  • Marilyn Watkins, Economic Opportunity Institute
  • Adam Burtle, University of Washington
  • Steven Bezruchka, University of Washington
  • Maya Rosin-Slater, University of California Santa Barbara
  • Dean Howard Frumkin, University of Washington

Sally J. Clark, Director of Regional & Community Relations at the University of Washington, said, “This symposium was a glowing example of what the University of Washington is at its core – a place where knowledge is shared and ideas are exchanged, all to develop solutions to create a stronger society.”

Councilmember Lisa Herbold said, “One of our featured speakers presented evidence showing that care and nurturing in early childhood generally leads to healthier lives in adulthood. He presented an apt quote from Frederick Douglass that bears repeating, ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’”  If we added ‘and women’ to that quote, I couldn’t agree more.”

At the symposium, speakers addressed failed federal efforts, leaving the United States as the only industrialized nation in the world without a federal paid parental leave policy. Implementation of a paid family leave policy at the Washington State legislature has also stalled due to lack of funding.  Many people spoke to how cities could take local action to set the example to show how a paid family leave policy could be beneficial for employers.

A representative from a Seattle employer that provides 16 weeks of paid family leave to new mothers spoke to the positive benefits of providing paid parental leave to their employees, but also spoke to the challenges of internal administration of the policy, so urged collaboration and outreach to help employers manage implementation.

Labor advocates highlighted the importance of educating both employers and employees of their rights after new laws are adopted. Additionally, appropriate levels of enforcement are needed to ensure workers can access their benefits.

“Paid family leave is a no-brainer policy, and more than just the 13% of private sector workers who currently enjoy the benefit should be served – for the health of the family, the health of the child, and the economic health of society,” said Councilmember Lorena González.  “Today’s symposium was a model of stakeholder engagement and I look forward to using this method of engagement again as we move forward on this policy.”

“I was glad to attend today’s paid family leave symposium, as it sets the foundation for our consideration of a paid family leave policy in the not-too-distant future,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson. “I was fortunate enough to have time with my daughters following their births, and I heard ample evidence today suggesting that time spent will pay off long-term.  All people deserve that time.”