Spokane Mayor David Condon is trying to block the Worker Bill of Rights from appearing on the November ballot just a week after the City Council approved the measure for the ballot.
The latest measure put forth by Envision Spokane – the group’s fourth to qualify for the ballot – would amend the city charter to require large employers to pay workers a “family wage,” ensure equal pay for equal work regardless of gender or race, and make it more difficult to terminate workers. The measure would make the rights of a corporation secondary to people’s rights.
In April, the city’s hearing examiner reviewed the initiative, calling it “legally flawed.” The examiner’s written opinion called into question the measure’s fourth “right” regarding corporate powers, saying it exceeded “the jurisdictional limits of the initiative power.”
Brian Coddington, the city’s spokesman, said Condon decided the city should file suit to keep the measure off the ballot based on advice from the city attorney’s office and analysis by the hearing examiner.
“We think there will be a fairly quick turnaround,” Coddington said. “The hope is that it will be acted upon prior to the county printing ballots, which occurs in approximately 30 days.”
The county is currently planning to have the ballots printed on Sept. 3.
Kai Huschke, Envision’s campaign coordinator, condemned Condon’s decision.
“It’s very much the mayor working for the noted corporate interest to block the people’s voice,” Huschke said. “It’s not the matter of the courts, it’s a matter of the people.”
Huschke dismissed the city’s argument as selective of the examiner’s opinion. In the written opinion’s conclusion, it says, “In the Hearing Examiner’s opinion, the Worker Bill of Rights can properly be adopted by initiative.”
The move to block the measure from the ballot comes amid ongoing legal action with Envision’s previous measure, which was prevented from reaching the 2013 general election ballot by a Superior Court judge after a challenge to the measure was brought forward by a coalition of government and business interests. An appellate court reversed the decision earlier this year and ordered the city to put the measure on the next available ballot.
The state Supreme Court is considering hearing the case.
Last week, the Spokane City Council narrowly voted to include two “advisory questions” on November’s general election ballot alongside the Worker Bill of Rights, to the chagrin of the measure’s backers. The questions, which were approved by a 4-3 vote, will basically ask voters if the city should raise taxes to pay for Envision’s measure or if other city services should be cut to pay for it.
If Envision’s measure is booted from the ballot, the advisory questions also will not appear.