Monday, August 3, 2015

UPDATED City of Spokane challenges provision of Workers Bill of Rights initiative in court

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 5:14 PM

The city of Spokane has filed a lawsuit in Spokane Superior Court seeking to challenging a provision of the Worker Bill of Rights initiative that will appear on the November ballot.

The initiative is the latest from Envision Spokane (now operating under an offshoot called “Envision Worker Rights”), which has mounted two unsuccessful attempts to pass its Community Bill of Rights using the initiative process.

The Worker Bill of Rights would guarantee a living wage for most employees of larger companies, equal pay and the right to not be wrongfully terminated, while also containing a provision that would make corporate rights subordinate to people’s rights.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 3, argues that the last provision of the Worker Bill of Rights should be kept off the ballot because it falls outside the scope of the initiative process and conflicts with state and federal law.

“The City has a well-grounded fear that placing an invalid initiative on the ballot will waste valuable resources and confuse the electorate,” reads the lawsuit.

A statement issued by Mayor David Condon stresses that he respects the initiative process and clarifies that the lawsuit only challenges the corporate power provision of the initiative. 

In 2013, a coalition of business groups and Spokane County sued to keep Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights off the ballot. Earlier this year, an appeals court ruled that the county and the business groups didn’t have legal standing to sue because they would not be directly affected.

The Downtown Spokane Partnership, which advocates for downtown business interests and was involved in the earlier lawsuit, called on Mayor David Condon to challenge the Worker Bill of Rights, arguing that the city would be in a better position to challenge it.

Brian Coddington, city spokesperson, says that the city will seek a swift resolution to the lawsuit because November ballots will soon be finalized and printed. 

However, Shar Lichty, a political organizer who is challenging Condon for reelection, called the lawsuit “outrageous.”

“With Condon’s fat cat donors being the only ones in opposition of this citizens’ initiative going to the ballot, this lawsuit shows he prioritizes his fat cat donors’ opinions over the rights of the citizens he was elected to represent,” said Lichty in a statement. “At a time of high income inequality it is outrageous that he would do this now and shows his clear disconnect from hard working families in Spokane.”

Kai Huschke, campaign coordinator for Envision Worker Rights, was also displeased. 

“The mayor is attempting to interfere with democratic rights secured in the Washington Constitution,” Huschke said in a statement. “Any political pressure the mayor is getting from corporate interests
like the Downtown Spokane Partnership and the Spokane Homebuilders Association needs to take a backseat to the people’s right to vote.”

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