May 12, 2015 – “A Worker Bill of Rights for Spokane, Washington”

Paul Cienfuegos’ May 12th, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News

(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)

Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.

As regular listeners know, the Community Rights group in Spokane, Washington, has been sparring with their elected city and county council members for the past few years, attempting to get their local government to finally start representing the interests of the 99% instead of the 1%. Their Community Bill of Rights ballot initiative is currently stuck in the courts, as the powers that be are claiming that Spokane voters do not have the legal right to vote on it, even though the Washington State Constitution enshrines the right to vote on citizen-led initiatives as the one of the highest rights of state residents.

So I was thrilled to recently discover that the Spokane group has launched a brand new ballot initiative campaign that would grant expansive new rights to working people in Spokane. It was filed on March 17th with their local elections office, and if they can gather 2500 legal signatures by the July 6th deadline, which will be quite a push to accomplish, they plan to have it on the ballot this November. They’re calling it “A Worker Bill of Rights”.

Although there are already more than 200 communities in nine states that have passed Community Rights ordinances, not one of them has focused explicitly on the rights of working people – until now. According to the actual ordinance language, it was written to “establish legally enforceable rights for workers to protect the local economy and build the people’s vision of a healthy, sustainable, economically just, and democratic community.”

The Worker Bill of Rights recognizes and protects four new rights. Here’s a summary of each one.

#1) Workers in the City of Spokane have a right to a family wage. Workers employed by an employer with 150 or more full-time equivalent workers shall be paid, at minimum, a family wage for work performed.

#2) All workers in the City of Spokane have a right to equal pay for equal work. No employer may provide different wage rates or other compensation to workers who are performing jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility because of the worker’s gender, sexual orientation, race, economic class, religion, age, and other categories.

#3) Workers in the City of Spokane have a right to be free from wrongful termination. Employers with ten or more full-time equivalent workers shall not terminate a worker unless they can demonstrate “just cause” as defined in established, common law principles of collective bargaining and labor relations.

#4) Corporate powers shall be subordinate to people’s rights. Corporations that violate, or seek to violate this ordinance shall not possess legal rights that would interfere with the rights of people in Spokane, including standing to challenge this ordinance in court, the power to assert state or federal preemptive laws in an attempt to overturn this ordinance, and the power to assert that the people of this municipality lack the authority to adopt this ordinance.

To read the full text of this ordinance, go to the EnvisionSpokane.org website. And if what I’m describing to you is getting you excited, I would urge you to consider donating some time or money to this campaign. Perhaps even get yourself and a few friends to Spokane in the next month or so, and help collect signatures to get it on the ballot this November. Again, their website is EnvisionSpokane.org.

Moving on to another topic….

I will be giving an original talk this coming Thursday evening here in Portland. The talk is titled, “We the People Standing Together to Protect Our Climate: Lessons from the Community Rights Movement”. After I’ve completed my presentation, the floor will be open to questions and conversation with the audience. I would love to see you there! It’s this Thursday evening, May 14th, from 7 to 9pm, at First Unitarian Church downtown, in the Elliott Chapel. And it’s free! This event is co-sponsored by Community Rights PDX, Alliance for Democracy, 350PDX.org, Environmental Justice Action Group, Cascadia Education Group, and KBOO Radio. Please tell your friends! And see you there!

Finally, I’m going to make one last plug for the extraordinary campaign being waged in Benton County right now to ban all GMO agriculture, and to establish a locally-enforceable Right to a Local Food System, a Right to Seed Heritage, and Rights for local ecosystems. Benton County residents – that’s folks in Corvallis and surrounding areas – have to turn in their ballots by May 19th – that’s just a week from today. They could really use some additional gifts of time and money from supporters across the state, as voters there are being deluged with slick corporate propaganda on the airwaves and on their doorsteps. If you are able to support this gutsy campaign, go to BentonFoodFreedom.org. That’s it for this week!

You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.

You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. You can sign up for my newsletter at PaulCienfuegos.com. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!

A Worker Bill of Rights Ordinance for Spokane

Spokane Worker Bill of Rights is an initiative of Envision Worker Rights – a sister political committee to Envision Spokane. The group is actively gathering signatures to place the Worker Bill of Rights on the November 2015 ballot.

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