Big Day in Court, Tomorrow, for Small Business

Date: April 20, 2017

Superior Court judge to decide whether challenge to Initiative 1433 can proceed

Contact: Patrick Connor, NFIB/Washington State Director, [email protected]
or Luke Wake, NFIB Attorney, [email protected]

OLYMPIA, Wash., April 20, 2017—The eyes of five associations representing Washington state’s most influential employer groups—including the National Federation of Independent Business on behalf of small-business owners throughout the state—will be glued to the Kittitas County courtroom of Superior Court Judge Scott Sparks, tomorrow, Friday, April 21.

Tomorrow is the first hearing in a case challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1433, which both raises the state’s minimum-wage rate and imposes paid sick leave requirements on employers. Judge Sparks is expected to render a decision as to whether this lawsuit can proceed.

“We are asking for the court to reinstate the rule of law,” said Patrick Connor, Washington state director for NFIB. “Specifically, we want a ruling that I-1433 violates our state’s constitutional requirement that ballot measures must address only a single subject when submitting issues for consideration to the voters.

“We’re asking for the entire initiative to be thrown out because the people should have had the opportunity to vote on separate issues in separate initiatives. The whole point is that a voter should never feel compelled to compromise his or her values when deciding whether to support or oppose an initiative. To be sure, there are many who may have both opposed and supported different aspects of this initiative—some of whom may have felt obliged to vote partially against their conscience, or to simply abstain from voting on this initiative.”

NFIB is joined in the lawsuit by the Northwest Food Processors Association, the Washington Farm Bureau, the Washington Food Industry Association, and the Washington Retail Association.

Passed by voters on November 8, I-1433 calls for both an increase in the state’s minimum-wage rate in stages up to 2020 and for unrelated changes in the state’s sick and family leave provisions. And as set out in the pleadings, these subjects have historically been treated as separate regulatory matters in employment law.

As stated in the lawsuit, Haberman v. Washington, “I-1433 violates article II, [Section] 19 of the Washington Constitution by containing more than a single subject, and by failing to adequately describe the measure’s content in its title. The initiative also failed to comply with article II, [Section] 37 because its provision relating to sick and family leave effectively amended statutes relating to those issues without specifically identifying them.”

Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, said, “The Single Subject Rule entailed in the Washington Constitution simply prohibits ballot measures from addressing unrelated issues. And this only serves to protect the integrity of the initiative process by guaranteeing that voters have a right to vote their conscience. Otherwise, initiative proponents might force voters into a Hobson’s choice between supporting measures they find partially problematic or opposing measures that they find to be good in part.”

The voters were put in a bind, the lawsuit claims. “Voters who were interested in a minimum wage rate increase were compelled to accept fundamental policy changes in Washington’s leave statutes in the bargain or vice versa. As stated in Lee [Lee v. State], ‘neither subject was necessary to implement the other,’ … That is constitutionally unacceptable.”

A special web page on the lawsuit can be found at


For more than 70 years, the National Federation of Independent Business has been the Voice of Small Business, taking the message from Main Street to the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures. NFIB annually surveys its members on state and federal issues vital to their survival as America’s economic engine and biggest creator of jobs. NFIB’s educational mission is to remind policymakers that small businesses are not smaller versions of bigger businesses; they have very different challenges and priorities.

National Federation of Independent Business/Washington
711 Capitol Way South, Suite 505
Olympia, WA 98501
Twitter: @NFIB_WA

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