A nation’s first is once again claimed by Spokane, Washington. Voters on November 3rd cast ballots for the first Worker Bill of Rights containing a right to a family wage. Initiative supporters were up against a quarter of a million dollars of corporate money. In addition, Spokane’s “progressive” city council prejudiced the ballot with “poison pill” advisory questions, claiming taxes would go up and services would be cut if voters said “yes” to the Worker Bill of Rights – also known as the City of Spokane Proposition 1. The measure was not adopted, but laid the groundwork for education, outreach, and future campaigns – both in Spokane and other communities across the country.

The Worker Bill of Rights, brought forward by the local community rights group Envision Worker Rights, would have secured a right to a family wage when working for a large employer, right to equal pay for equal work, and a right to not be wrongfully terminated, along with limiting the ability of corporations to override those rights.

CELDF provided assistance in the drafting of the Worker Bill of Rights as well as legal defense when the Mayor of Spokane attempted to use the courts to block the vote of the people. The local community rights group will be debriefing the campaign and discussing when it will reintroduce the Worker Bill of Rights.

Also in Spokane, on November 10th, the people’s Community Bill of Rights was in front of the Washington State Supreme Court with CELDF providing legal representation in defense of the community rights law.

Originally to be voted on in 2013 after duly qualifying for the ballot, the Community Bill of Rights has been in the court system for over two years, courtesy of corporate lobbyist groups who brought a pre-election challenge.

The lower court originally sided with the corporations, keeping the Community Bill of Rights from the ballot, but an appeals court overturned that decision in January 2015. The corporate plaintiffs then appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court, who agreed to hear the case in November. A decision by the court is expected sometime in 2016.

Spokane was the first community in the nation to bring forward a local community bill of rights. Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights would recognize the right of neighborhood residents to have decision making power over large development, rights for the Spokane Rivers, constitutional rights for workers, and the limiting of corporate powers from overriding those rights.

Envision Worker Rights: www.envisionworkerrights.org Envision Spokane: www.envisionspokane.org

Photo by Carolyn Wilcox.

Additional Resources