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.”