August 18, 2015 – “Workers’ Rights vs the 1% – A Showdown in Spokane, Washington”

Paul Cienfuegos’ August 18th, 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.

Today I want to bring to your attention the latest news coming from Spokane, Washington. I have regularly reported in my weekly commentaries over this past year that our Community Rights movement is not a progressive or Green politics movement, but is in fact led to a large degree by old-fashioned rural Republicans and Libertarians who adamantly believe that local communities should and do have the inherent right to pass laws that protect their communities’ health and welfare. The left has hemmed and hawed about local control for much of this past century, imagining that the very idea of local control is somehow by definition oppressive or anti-democratic. This attitude among many leftists and Greens has always flabbergasted me, as it has been clear for decades now that both Republicans and Democrats, Greens and Libertarians, all overwhelmingly oppose corporate rule here in these disUnited States of America, and that clearly the most effective place to challenge corporate rule, at least initially, is at the local level.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone who is paying attention to the growth of the Community Rights movement over this past decade – to learn that Spokane, Washington – not exactly a progressive stronghold here in the Pacific Northwest – that Spokane is the oldest and most active Community Rights campaign west of Pennsylvania! I did commentaries about their work on February 3rd <http://communityrightspdx.org/podcast/march-3-2015-climate-change-community-rights-part-one-of-two/> and February 10th <http://communityrightspdx.org/podcast/feb-10-2015do-the-people-of-spokane-washington-have-the-right-to-cast-a-vote-on-a-community-bill-of-rights-part-two-of-two/> if you want more of the background of this extraordinary campaign that has now lasted about a decade, and shows no sign of ending anytime soon. But today I wanted to catch you up on the latest chapter of their amazing story.

The local government and business elite in Spokane have been pulling out all the stops – year after year – to keep Spokane voters from exercising their state constitutional “right” to vote Yes or No on the Community Rights ordinance being proposed by the group Envision Spokane. The last attempt to stop it from going to the voters was in 2013, and it’s still stuck in court, even after a lower court approved it for an upcoming election date. So the campaign organizers concluded that rather than twiddle their thumbs and wait for the judges to decide their fate at glacial speed, they would run a whole new ballot initiative – a Worker Bill of Rights – for this November’s election. The Worker Bill of Rights would secure the right to a family wage when working for a large employer, the right to equal pay for equal work for all, the right not to be wrongfully terminated, and limit corporate power when it conflicts with these rights. I did a commentary about this also, on May 12th http://communityrightspdx.org/podcast/a-worker-bill-of-rights-for-spokane-washington/.

On July 6th, the campaign handed in 1000 more signatures than was required for it to be placed on the ballot this November. Then all hell broke loose once again. At the July 27th meeting of the Spokane City Council, the elected officials decided to once again interfere with the public’s right to vote on the ordinance by placing two so-called “advisory” questions on the ballot that both insinuate – with no facts, figures, or other evidence whatsoever – that adopting the Worker Bill of Rights will reduce funding for other services and raise taxes.

And on August 3rd, Mayor David Condon unilaterally filed a legal challenge to try and stop the Worker Bill of Rights from going to the ballot. The challenge rests on the claim that the initiative is “legally flawed” even though the city hearing examiner concluded otherwise.

Meanwhile the Worker Bill of Rights was endorsed by Noam Chomsky, a variety of labor unions, and the Tacoma chapter of ‘15 Now’.

Just last week, on August 13th, Superior Court judge Salvatore Cozza heard legal arguments in the mayor’s lawsuit that is attempting to block the people’s right to adopt or reject the Worker Bill of Rights. The judge delivered his ruling later that day. In a big victory for our side, the judge denied the injunction against the ballot initiative, and ruled that the courts must protect the integrity of the initiative process by not interfering with the people’s right to vote. The constitutionality of an initiative “is not grounds to prevent an election from going forward,” the judge said.

Believe it or not, the mayor’s attorney – from corporate law firm K&L Gates – argued that he was doing what he did “to protect the integrity of [the] initiative process and to prevent voter confusion.” Go figure!

Brad Read, the Campaign Manager for Envision Worker Rights, had this to say about the mayor’s corporate backers in the lawsuit, “Corporate lobbyist groups like the Downtown Spokane Partnership and the Spokane Homebuilders are like the aristocracy in Downton Abbey who ring the bell expecting to be served by the system. At least in this case entitled nobility and privilege had to bow to the people.”

What a wild roller coaster ride, eh?! So now the Worker Bill of Rights will appear in Spokane’s general election in November, but will have two malicious advisory questions listed next to it on the ballot. And, of course, another legal challenge could still be filed against it in the next few weeks!

You have to have a lot of stamina to be part of a Community Rights law-making campaign, because those people who claim to be our leaders tend to freak out at the idea that in a democratic republic The People should have any authentic self-governing authority. So you quickly discover which so-called leaders actually support real democracy, and which are in office simply to grease the wheels for the 1%. And if you figure out that your local leaders fall into this second category, it’s time to start mobilizing The People to oust them from office. I am crossing my fingers that Spokane voters will have an opportunity soon to throw these scoundrels out of city council. Their behavior has been an absolute disgrace. Are your city council members receptive to The Peoples will? If not, it’s time to do something about it.

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/podcast. You can sign up for my twice monthly news updates at PaulCienfuegos.com. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!

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