Remember the High Costs of Unpaid Sick Leave When You’re Voting This Fall

The Other Washington guests Jessyn Farrell and Bill Marler.

The Other Washington guests Jessyn Farrell and Bill Marler.

This fall, Washington state will vote on Initiative 1433. Many Washingtonians know that a “yes” vote on 1433 will raise the state minimum wage to $13.50 by the year 2020. But fewer people know that 1433 also provides up to seven days of paid sick and safe leave for workers per year.

This is so important. Over a million Washington workers have no access to paid sick leave, which means that a missed day of work results in the disappearance of one-fifth of a weekly paycheck for those who work 40 hours a week. Many minimum-wage workers simply can’t afford that kind of a hit to their weekly pay; an unpaid sick day could mean the difference between paying rent or driving up credit card debt yet again. And many of these workers are in the food service industry, which means that when they show up to work sick, they put all their customers’ health at risk.

For the latest edition of our podcast, The Other Washington, we talked with 46th District State Representative Jessyn Farrell about why she supports paid sick and safe leave. She makes a great case for the initiative to provide sick leave for food service workers, but she also makes a strong, personal case for family leave: Farrell was born with a quarter-sized hole in her heart, and the economic impact of that birth defect was hugely consequential in her family.

We also talked with food safety lawyer Bill Marler about the nearly quarter-century he’s spent fighting companies that make customers sick. Marler is one of the world’s leading experts on foodborne illnesses, and he provides a compelling case for allowing sick workers to stay home. The tiny amount that employers like Chipotle are saving by not providing sick leave is insignificant when viewed in comparison to the millions—even billions—that companies pay out to sickened customers after protracted legal battles.

We hope you’ll enjoy this latest episode of The Other Washington, though—just being honest, here—you might not want to listen to it while you’re on your lunch break. And remember to vote yes on Initiative 1433 when your ballots arrive in the mail this fall.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.