Mayor of Spokane loses court challenge attempting to strike a duly qualified citizens’ initiative from the ballot


Kai Huschke, CELDF


SPOKANE, WASHINGTON: Judge Salvatore Cozza from the Spokane County Superior denied a preliminary injunction brought by the Mayor of Spokane to block the vote of a Worker Bill of Rights initiative, which is on the November ballot. The Worker Bill of Rights was duly qualified by the local community rights group, Envision Worker Rights. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has provided legal assistance to the community group, including legal defense against the challenge brought by the mayor.

This first-in-the-nation Worker Bill of Rights would secure a right to a family wage when working for a large employer, right to equal pay for equal work, right to not be wrongfully terminated, and that corporate powers shall be subordinate to people’s rights.

 To CELDF’s knowledge, this will be the first time in the United Stated that citizens will vote on a true living wage, which is provided for in the Worker Bill of Rights through the right to a family wage provision.

“We are very happy that the people of Spokane had their right to vote protected,” said Brad Read, Campaign Manager for Envision Worker Rights.

In today’s decision, the judge repeatedly referenced the need to protect the citizens’ initiative process. He spoke of how the initiative process was developed in the early 20th century as a means for the people to bring forward ideas “outside of the box” that would not be entertained by “traditional” legislative bodies whether it be at the local or state level.

The judge concluded his decision by saying the “heart of the matter” was whether the Worker Bill of Rights fell within the very narrow realm of a pre-election challenge. He felt that it did not and that he was compelled to follow what he called a “general principle” that the right of the people to vote needs to be upheld.

“This legal challenge was clearly a calculated attempt by the mayor, goaded and backed by Spokane’s corporate powerbrokers, to thwart the right of the people to vote”, said Kai Huschke, CELDF organizer for Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. “That move has blown up in their faces, so the corporate interests will now see if they can buy a campaign to kill the passage of a very popular proposal in the Worker Bill of Rights.”

The mayor’s attorney, Michael Ryan from the international corporate law firm K&L Gates, said that the not decision has been made on whether the mayor will appeal the preliminary injunction.

For more information on the Worker Bill of Rights visit

Through grassroots organizing and public interest law, CELDF works with communities across the country to establish Community Rights to democratic, local self-governance and sustainability. CELDF has assisted nearly 200 communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, and water privatization, and eliminate corporate “rights” when they violate community and nature’s rights. This includes assisting the first communities in the U.S. to establish Rights of Nature in law, as well as the first communities to elevate the rights of communities above the “rights” of corporations.


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