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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane voters reject worker bill of rights

Prop 1 opponents gather at the corner of Main Avenue and Monroe Street to engage evening commuters Tuesday in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A controversial measure to bolster worker rights in Spokane failed at the polls Tuesday, as 62 percent of voters rejected it.

If successful, the measure would have amended 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 add protections against termination.

Local politicians from the left and right came out against the measure, including Spokane Mayor David Condon, Council President Ben Stuckart, Democratic state Sen. Andy Billig and Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner. Opponents staged an organized and well-funded effort against the measure, which they credit with turning voters against it.

“The community never supported the idea to begin with. The vote total reflects that,” said Michael Cathcart, government affairs director with the Spokane Home Builders Association. “This time, we were a little more successful at educating the public.”

Kai Huschke, campaign coordinator for the proposition’s sponsor Envision Spokane, suggested the measure failed because of the lopsided fundraising totals.

“People don’t like corporate money in elections, but it’s obviously very effective,” Huschke said.

The effort supporting the Worker Bill of Rights raised $26,795. Opponents raised about $244,420.

Maria Vandervert, marketing director with Greater Spokane Incorporated, said voters saw through misleading ballot language that would’ve hurt small businesses.

Huschke, who has helped steer three Envision initiatives to the ballot, promised the Worker Bill of Rights would be back.

“I think it’s up to us, and all those people that want to see this pass, to remobilize and make this happen,” he said.