Sen. Keiser Newsroom

Senate votes to help sick Hanford workers get compensation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Jan. 25, 2018

Senate votes to help sick Hanford workers get compensation

OLYMPIA— The state Senate voted late today to expand workers compensation protections to Hanford workers exposed to toxic chemicals while on the job.

“Rep. Larry Haler and I have been working on this bill for quite some time and its passage is great news for the Hanford community, “ said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, chair of the  Senate Labor and Commerce committee. “We saw gut-wrenching testimony in committee last year. Exposure to heavy metal and radiation has ruined people’s lives.

“I cannot think of a more suitable assertion for this Senate to make than putting our partisan differences aside to put people first. We are seeing people dying from dementia, cancer and lung disease who were systematically left out of workers compensation.

“People went bankrupt paying for cancer treatments. This ordeal has been going on since the 1990s; we have seen a whole generation impacted by this tragedy. That is not right. Our Washington community cares about protecting all workers. ”

Haler, a Richland Republican, sponsored House Bill 1723 in conjunction with Keiser’s Senate Bill 5940. Both bills were moved to the Senate floor to expedite getting the legislation to the governor’s desk as soon as possible.

“It’s important that we take care of workers who have suffered due to being exposed to harmful chemicals and processes at Hanford,” said Rep. Haler. “Despite all the safety precautions taken, families and individuals have been devastated by illness and disease.  They need help.  This bill will help make that easier.  I thank Sen. Keiser for her assistance in getting this important legislation passed for the citizens in my district.”

Currently, Hanford workers compensation claims are rejected at a rate 52 percent higher than the state average, even though Hanford is the most dangerous and toxic worksite in the country. House Bill 1723 establishes a presumption for Hanford nuclear site workers to expand eligibility for workers compensation claims.

House Bill 1723 passed on a 35 to 14 vote and now heads back to the House for concurrence. It will then go to the Governor’s desk for signing.

 

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For information: Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

 

January 25th, 2018|Uncategorized|
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    #MeToo comes to Olympia as Senate hears sexual harassment bills

#MeToo comes to Olympia as Senate hears sexual harassment bills

The Senate Labor & Commerce Committee will hear three pieces of legislation sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.

When: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Senate Hearing Room 4.

Where you can watch it live: /www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2018011337

Brief Summary:
·  Senate Bill 5996 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault.
· Senate Bill 6313 addresses mandatory employment contracts and agreements that limit an employee’s right to file a complaint or cause of action for sexual harassment or sexual assault.
· Senate Bill 6471 relates to developing model policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment.

Quote:
· Sen. Karen Keiser:
· “For a long time, women felt sexual harassment was something we had to deal with just to have careers. I want to make clear that sexual harassment will no longer be accepted, time is up, and we must make a change.

“There’s a burden of humiliation and fear of reprisal that intimidates victims from coming forward. These bills will provide a path forward for victims to report without fear of losing their jobs or suffering other forms of retaliation. We must no longer limit the economic and career potential of half of our population. We must demand that our workplace culture shifts to reflect our values of fairness and respect.” 

January 21st, 2018|Uncategorized|

South King County lawmakers make legislative history

OLYMPIA – Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, will serve as President Pro Tempore of the Washington State Senate, presiding over the chamber when the lieutenant governor is unavailable.

In addition to these duties, Keiser will also chair the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee.

“It is an honor and privilege to be elected by my colleagues to preside as President Pro Tem of the Washington State Senate,” said Keiser. “I look forward to stepping up to the podium and wielding the gavel when Lt. Gov. Habib is unable to preside. I assured my colleagues that I will make every effort to ensure fair, equitable and efficient Senate.”

Keiser’s seatmate in the House, Rep. Tina Orwall, D- Des Moines, serves as Speaker Pro Tempore. This marks the first time in Washington state history that two members from the same district share presiding roles.

Keiser will continue to serve as a member of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee and the Senate Ways & Means Committee, which produces the operating and capital budgets. She will also serve on the Rules Committee.

“It is time to put partisan bickering aside and put the hardworking people of Washington first,” Keiser said. “I am looking forward to bringing back transparency and accountability to the Senate”.

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For more information: Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326
For interviews: Sen. Karen Keiser, 360-786-7664

January 8th, 2018|Uncategorized|
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    Keiser to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Washington State Senate

Keiser to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Washington State Senate

OLYMPIA – Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, will serve as President Pro Tempore of the Washington State Senate, presiding over the chamber when the lieutenant governor is absent. In addition to these duties, Keiser will also chair the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee.

Securing a one-seat majority after a special election victory in Washington’s 45th Legislative District, Senate Democrats will now set the docket for policy committees and floor voting.

“I am honored to have been selected by my colleagues to help run the Senate effectively during this critical juncture in Washington state history,” said Keiser. “There is significant work to be done and we are committed to ensuring that every voice is heard as we demonstrate, once more, what effective governance can do for the hardworking people of our state.”

Keiser will continue to serve as a member of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee and the powerful Senate Ways & Means Committee, which produces the operating and capital budgets.  She will also be a member of the Rules Committee.

November 21st, 2017|Uncategorized|
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    Paid family leave keeps families together in times of joy, times of sorrow

Paid family leave keeps families together in times of joy, times of sorrow

OLYMPIA – Following the historic passage of Senate Bill 5975, which establishes a comprehensive statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program in Washington, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, released the following statement:

“Thirty years ago when I was home with my baby daughter, she began to look pale, unhealthy. I took her to the doctor, who told me that her white blood cell count was high. And so my daughter and I went on our way to Seattle Children’s Hospital, but we didn’t make it in time. Her appendix burst and she had come down with peritonitis.

“At 16 months old, she had surgery and spent two weeks in isolation. I was pregnant with my son at the time. It was hard, but I was privileged to have an employer who stood by me and paid my wages while I stayed in the isolation unit with my daughter.

“Fast forward 20 years and my mother, at 85 years old, got breast cancer. It wasn’t fair but she was a fighter. She had a mastectomy only to shortly thereafter fall down and break her hip. She recovered, to next find out she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. All in one year.

“To help her at that time, I was able to stay with her for a month. It was the best month I ever had with my mom.

“And again, it was possible thanks to an employer who helped me in my time of need.

“But of course, we are not all so privileged. I’ll never forget the story of a young woman from Auburn, who testified here in Olympia 10 years ago when we first passed paid family leave. She told us that she was saving up every hour of paid time off that she could so she could spend those precious moments with her newborn. Then her baby was born prematurely.

“She had given birth on Thursday, but due to circumstance and because she wanted to use what time off she had at home with her son, she went back to work on Monday.

“Can you imagine? Your child still in the intensive care unit, while you’re still at work?

“I never forgot that story. And now, thanks to the countless hours of work put in by so many, we are going to pass paid family and medical leave in Washington state so that every person, be they a parent of a newborn or helping an aging parent, will be able to spend that critical, irreplaceable time with their family.”

June 30th, 2017|Uncategorized|

New accommodations for pregnant workers become law

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today signed legislation providing new protections for pregnant women in the workplace.

Senate Bill 5835, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, will ensure that tens of thousands of pregnant workers in Washington are guaranteed scheduling flexibility for prenatal doctors’ visits, readily accessible drinking water, food and seating, and a score of manual labor accommodations.

“After years of work from advocates, I am proud to stand with the working women of Washington for whom these protections are long overdue,” Keiser said. “Though these reasonable accommodations may seem simple, the provisions of this law will make a significant difference to ensure healthy pregnancies for women and their children at a time when the United States suffers from one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world.”

The newly signed law also establishes the Healthy Pregnancy Advisory Committee (HPAC) to provide a statewide strategy to improve birth outcomes, reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, and reduce infant mortality to the Legislature and the governor by October 15, 2018. Housed within the Department of Health, HPAC will bring together medical experts, health care providers and representatives of low-income women, women of color, and immigrant communities to jointly develop recommendations.

“Like other states, Washington has shocking rates of maternal and infant health disparities, with Native American and Black Washingtonians being more than twice as likely to experience premature birth and suffer pregnancy loss,” said Lisa M. Stone, Executive Director of Legal Voice. “The advisory committee is a critical step in ensuring all pregnant people in Washington have equitable access to the pregnancy-related care they need. Further, the committee will include advocates and community members, allowing those most affected by these unacceptable health disparities to have a voice in creating innovative policies to end them.”

Additional accommodations outlined in the law, which apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, include access to more frequent, longer or flexible restroom breaks; job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules; providing a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position and; providing assistance with manual labor and enforcing evidence-based limits on lifting.

“Pregnancies and jobs can both be quite demanding. Yet it’s increasingly likely that a woman will be both pregnant and working at some point in her life,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, who sponsored the House version of the bill. “Whether she’s a legislator or a landscaper, a baker or an office worker, every woman deserves the ability to take care of herself and her pregnancy, while also participating in her workplace and earning an income.”

SB 5835 passed the House of Representatives and the Senate on unanimous votes.

May 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|
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    Protections for pregnant women in the workplace headed to Governor’s desk

Protections for pregnant women in the workplace headed to Governor’s desk

OLYMPIA – Legislation requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace today passed the Washington state House of Representatives on a unanimous vote and will be sent to the Governor for signature into law.

Senate Bill 5835 will provide several new protections for tens of thousands of pregnant women in Washington workplaces, including more frequent restroom breaks, readily accessible drinking water, food and seating, and scheduling flexibility for prenatal doctors’ visits. The legislation also imposes evidence-based lifting limits and manual labor accommodations.

“I am thrilled to make this positive step forward with the Legislature advancing the cause of equality with these needed rights for the working women of Washington,” said sponsor of the bill Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines. “These measures will help secure economic stability and promote positive health outcomes for women and their babies.  I also want to thank my colleague Rep. Jessyn Farrell who sponsored the companion bill, HB 1796.”

“Women shouldn’t have to choose between being able to work and provide for their families, and having a healthy pregnancy,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle. “Both employers and employees will now have more clarity with regards to workplace accommodations for expectant mothers, and the important work of improving health outcomes for mothers and babies will continue.”

The bill also establishes the Healthy Pregnancy Advisory Committee tasked with developing strategies for improving maternal and infant health outcomes.  The maternal mortality and infant mortality rates in Washington state are higher than those of many other countries, including Canada and Cuba.  The committee, under the auspices of the Department of Health, will look at other steps Washington health care providers and policy makers can take to make progress for healthy outcomes.

April 10th, 2017|Uncategorized|
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    Washington state Senate passes accommodations for pregnant workers

Washington state Senate passes accommodations for pregnant workers

OLYMPIA – On International Women’s Day, a major new bill providing protections for pregnant women in the workplace passed the state Senate unanimously.

Sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, Senate Bill 5835 will give pregnant women in the workplace several new protections including increased restroom breaks, access to drinking water, food and seating as well as evidenced-based lifting limits and manual labor accommodations. A similar bill, ESHB 1796 passed the House last month.

“This legislation is a victory for the working women of Washington and a testament to the value of good faith bargaining and bipartisanship in the Legislature,” said Keiser. “This victory is an excellent advancement to better economic security and positive health outcomes for women and their newborn babies. This bill will improve the lives of the women of Washington state.”

In addition to providing new pregnancy protections, the bill would also establish the Healthy Pregnancy Advisory Committee tasked with developing strategies for improving maternal and infant health outcomes. The committee would be comprised of medical experts, representatives from low-income, immigrant and communities of color, with the auspices of the Department of Health.

“Every family deserves to bring their newborns into this world using proven best practices to promote health and happiness,” said Keiser. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to enact this legislation to the benefit of Washington moms and babies.”

SB 5835 passed on the final day for floor consideration of Senate bills and now moves to the House for further consideration.

March 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|

33rd District Legislators to host town hall in Kent

Who: State Sen. Karen Keiser, State Rep. Mia Gregerson, and State Rep. Tina Orwall

What: Town hall meeting

When: Saturday, March 18, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Where: Kent City Hall, 220 Fourth Ave S, Kent, WA 98032

Why: To meet with constituents and report on, discuss, and answer questions regarding the 2017 legislative session.

March 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|

Politics have no place in women’s reproductive rights

Employers would be prohibited from discriminating against women seeking full health care, under legislation introduced by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, and 17 other senators. The Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee will hold a hearing on the bill today.

“The Hobby Lobby decision allowing privately-held employers to discriminate against women by restricting their access to contraception was an outrage and threatened women’s health and women’s rights,” said Ranker. “It remains an attack on our core values and is unacceptable; we will protect contraception and family planning at every opportunity.”

Senate Bill 5760 would ensure women have access to contraception under their health care plans here in Washington state by strengthening the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

“Barrier-free access to birth control should be a choice that remains available to all women, as discrimination against women and women’s health needs is contrary to our values as citizens of this state,” said Cleveland. “This legislation safeguards the right of Washington women to receive essential health coverage.”

“We can and must ensure that Washington women have equal rights and real choice to make their own reproductive health decisions regardless of their employer,” said Keiser. “Now is the time to proactively defend our values from any destructive policies adopted at the federal level.”

February 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|