A group called; “People First for Bellingham” has submitted signatures required to qualify four initiatives for Bellingham city residents to consider on the November ballot. Three of the initiatives address rental assistance, the use of facial recognition and policing, and a prohibition on the use of City resources to discourage union organizing. The fourth initiative (Initiative No. 2021-04) has two parts of particular concern to retailers:
- Imposes $4/hour hazard pay for all hourly workers when the city boundaries are included in any declared state of emergency, regardless of whether there is any risk to the employee. For example, all hourly employees would receive an additional $4/hour hazard pay due to the drought emergency recently declared by Governor Inslee.
- The hazard pay requirement applies to all employers – government, schools, universities, non-profits, businesses, and agriculture
- Imposes restrictive scheduling requirements similar to the City of Seattle’s ordinance.
- Again, the requirement to provide advance scheduling, predictive pay, and additional compensation upon change of a work schedule would apply to all employers in the City of Bellingham, including government, schools, universities, non-profits, businesses, and agriculture.
In response to the rapidly developing situation, WR:
- Convened the broader business community to educate, share information and initiate efforts to respond to the initiative.
- Worked closely with the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce to support and assist their efforts to respond to the initiative.
- Alerted Washington Retail members in Bellingham.
- Provided initial talking points for use by the Bellingham Chamber, WR members, and the broader business community.
People First for Bellingham submitted the requisite number of signatures to the city at the end of June. At that point, the City Council had limited options and a very tight timeline. They would have to send the initiative to the voters on the November ballot unless they adopted the initiative “as is” into law. Although the Council could have developed an alternative and put both on the November ballot, that option was not under consideration due to tight deadlines.
As expected, the Council sent all four of the initiatives to the November ballot at their meeting on August 2. A “NO” committee was approved by the Council, and all three of the Council-appointed committee members are members of their local chamber. The committee will prepare a statement in opposition to the initiative by August 9.