Overview of SSB 5975 – Paid Family and Medical Leave

To view this article as a PDF file, click here.

Background: Following prolonged discussions between the business community and worker advocates, the Legislature in 2017 amended the state’s family and medical leave insurance program. That program was first passed in 2007 but never funded. The issue of paid family leave continued to poll extremely well across all demographics statewide. Legislators believed failure to find a legislative solution in 2017 would likely result in a statewide initiative backed by organized labor and likeminded social groups.

Bill Summary: SSB 5975 made substantial policy changes to the state family and medical leave insurance program and provided a funding mechanism. The chart below summarizes many of the provisions of SSB 5975. Continue reading Overview of SSB 5975 – Paid Family and Medical Leave

Initiative 1433 – Minimum Wage Increase and Paid Sick Leave Mandate

To view this article as a PDF file, click here.

Background: Originally, Washington’s Minimum Wage Act covered only non-agricultural workers. However, in 1988 voters approved Initiative 518, which changed the Minimum Wage Act to cover all workers employed in Washington state. Consequently, the state minimum wage is the same for both non-agricultural and agricultural workers.

In 1998, voters approved Initiative 688, which raised the minimum wage and required the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to make a cost-of-living increase to the minimum wage each calendar year based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

The minimum wage for 2016 under Washington law is $9.47/hour. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage is presently $7.25/hour. Washington employers must pay the higher of those rates. In addition, some municipalities such as Seattle and Tacoma have enacted higher minimum wage rates in their jurisdictions. Employers subject to those laws must pay the highest minimum wage required. Continue reading Initiative 1433 – Minimum Wage Increase and Paid Sick Leave Mandate

Discussions begin on 2018 Farm Bill and Margin Protection Program

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) was invited to testify to Congress in late July during a hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill.

NMPF said Congress must revise the dairy safety net program established in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide farmers with effective risk management protection that will increase participation in the program.

NMPF said that while the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) remains the right program for the dairy industry, “the changes Congress made to the MPP when writing the last Farm Bill rendered it ineffective when dairy farmers needed it the most.”

In calendar year 2015, dairy farmers paid more than $70 million into the MPP and received payments totaling just $730,000.

In 2016, those figures were $20 million and $13 million.

NMPF said farmers found that the program was not helpful during two years that were particularly detrimental to the dairy industry. As a result, many of them have become disenchanted with the program, and participation has dwindled.

In making the case for improving the MPP, NMPF detailed a list of proposed changes NMPF and its members had developed to improve it. The MPP is designed to help farmers insure against either low milk prices or high feed costs, but the determination of the feed price used in the margin calculation is problematic.

During the farm bill process, NMPF’s original proposed feed formula, though considered accurate, was cut by 10 percent to address other budget concerns. Based on the government profit made on the program, concerns about budget that led to the 10-percent cut were misplaced, NMPF explained.

NMPF said it is also important to expand dairy farmers’ access to additional risk management tools like the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle (LGM) program and similar programs that could be offered by USDA.

“Making the [MPP] program more attractive for dairy farmers is vital to ensuring participation in the program, and the safety of America’s dairy industry.”

NMPF also touched on several other policy challenges affecting U.S. dairy farmers, including immigration and labor shortages, and the vitality of U.S. dairy trade as NAFTA renegotiations begin.