Friday, March 20, 2015

Envision Spokane files new Worker Bill of Rights initiative

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 1:49 PM

Envision Spokane, faced with a protracted legal battle over its most recent attempt to pass Community Bill of Rights initiative, has filed a new initiative for the November ballot that, if passed, would grant expansive rights to workers in Spokane.

Filed on Tuesday, the initiative would amend Spokane’s charter to include a Worker’s Bill of Rights that includes four key provisions:

- A guarantee to a “family wage,” to be calculated by the city.

- A right to equal pay regardless of gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, familial status, religion and other categories.

- Employers would be required to have a “just cause” to terminate an employee.

- Lastly, corporations would not have be considered “persons” for the purposes of challenging any provisions in the initiative.

“There’s momentum around the country for workers to get a decent family wage,” says Brad Read, president of Envision Spokane’s board.

In 2009 and 2011, Envision Spokane placed far-reaching initiatives on the ballot that would have given greater protections to the Spokane River, given greater protections to workers rights and granted neighborhood councils power over local development.

The first time around, the initiative was trounced. In 2011 it came close. In 2013, a coalition of business groups and public officials successfully filed a lawsuit to prevent the initiative from once again making the ballot.

In January, an appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling, allowing the initiative to move forward.

However, Read, says that opponents of the initiative have used legal maneuvers to delay the initiative from being placed on the November ballot. He says that opponents of the initiative could appeal all the way to the state Supreme Court, a process that could take months and not be resolved in time for the November ballot.

Instead of waiting, Envision Spokane has decided to move forward with an initiative that’s more narrowly focused on worker rights.

He also says that Envision Spokane has laid the groundwork in past campaigns that will allow this effort to finally succeed. Specifically, Read says the group has made inroads with low-income communities, who he says will help pass the initiative.

“We think this message resonates even more with those voters because they are the ones doing the jobs and not getting paid,” he says.

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