Yesterday, Seattle City Council member Lorena González introduced a pretty badass proposal to give all workers in Seattle six months of paid family leave to care for a new child or a sick family member. The proposal would create an insurance program into which employers pay 70 percent and employees pay 30 percent of the benefit. Workers would get 100 percent of their pay during their time off, up to $1,000 a week.
The proposal sounds good, but comes with a few important caveats.
The biggest: González will wait for the state legislature to act first. In Olympia, a Democrat and a Republican have released competing plans for how to offer paid family leave to workers across the state. González says she'll introduce her Seattle-only plan only if neither of those pass this session. The plan is also, for now, just a broad proposal. González has not released ordinance language, so some of the specifics—like how exactly the city will collect the money, how much vacation or sick time employees will have to use before accessing family leave, and whether public employers like the University of Washington are covered—remain unclear.
If the state fails to act, though, and González does formally introduce her proposal, it will be a test for her colleagues on the council. Will they be willing to enact the most generous private sector paid leave policy in the country, a policy that may piss off some business interests?
I asked them.
In an email Wednesday, I asked each member of the Seattle City Council whether they would support González's proposal if the state does not enact statewide paid family leave this session. Below is what I heard back. Including González (who represents the whole city in Position 9), this indicates that a majority of the council supports González's plan:
• District 1, Lisa Herbold: "I do," Herbold said by email.
• District 3, Kshama Sawant: "Yes," wrote a legislative aide.
• District 4, Rob Johnson: "Rob appreciates her leadership on this," an aide said by email, "and would be supportive of her Seattle policy, and he would look forward to getting more into specifics."
• District 5, Debora Juarez: "CM Juarez supports the proposal," an aide wrote.
If you're counting, that's five—a majority.
Two other council members were noncommittal:
• District 2, Bruce Harrell: "At a high level, I support the concept of providing paid family and medical leave to our employees," Harrell said in a statement. "We need to be pragmatic and work closely with our employees and employers to make sure the program is sustainable and equitable for all involved."
• District 6, Mike O'Brien: An aide wrote by email that "Mike hasn’t had a chance to read the specifics of the plan but definitely supports the effort at a high level."
And two didn't respond by deadline:
• District 7, Sally Bagshaw
• Position 8, Tim Burgess
If I hear back from either of them, I'll update this post. If you'd like to contact them—or any of the other members—yourself, their contact information is here.