Initiative 200 was a Tim Eyman-led initiative that created a 1998 law for Washington State that bans preferences in public contracting, education, and public employment. Despite the ability for public agencies to do certain activities such as establishing voluntary goals and conducting specialized outreach, I-200 has had a devastating effect on diverse outcomes in various forums, including education, hiring and utilization of women and minority-owned businesses by public agencies. There are significant business, education, and employment gaps in Washington state, particularly for people of color, and these gaps continue to worsen. In other words, discrimination is real in our state.
Our legislature voted to overturn this law in 2019, but advocates of the law put Referendum 88 on the ballot last fall to overturn the legislature’s vote, and unfortunately the referendum barely passed. Since then, COVID 19 has exposed wide diversity in the incidence of the virus among different communities, and a doctor involved in treating COVID patients has been so concerned about these disparities that he is sponsoring another attempt to overturn I-200, this time adding a public health component so that we have the data to be able to inform more vulnerable communities of the circumstances they face. Here is an introduction to the new initiative.
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked the discriminatory health, educational, employment and economic disparities which have long plagued seniors, women, persons with disabilities, persons of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, military veterans, and other vulnerable communities in Washington state.
The Washington State Department of Health has reported in 2020:
• 56% of men dying from the novel coronavirus exceeded men’s 50% of the state population.
• 52% of coronavirus infected women exceed women’s 50% of the state population.
• Hispanics are 40% of the racially identifiable confirmed COVID-19 cases, while only 13% of the state’s population.
• African Americans are 7% of the racially identifiable confirmed COVID-19 cases, nearly double their percentage of the state’s population.
• Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are 2% of the racially identifiable confirmed COVID-19 cases, double their percentage of the state’s population.
Washington Anti-Discrimination Act achieves the following:
• Requires Washington state to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all Washington residents who voluntarily give their fully informed consent for a vaccination, at no cost to the patient;
• Prohibits age discrimination in public employment, public education & public contracting;
• Redefines Affirmative Action to require that all candidates must be qualified to receive public education, employment and contracting opportunities;
• Defines preferential treatment for the first time in state law;
• Prohibits Quotas; but allows Goals & Timetables to achieve Diversity;
• Expands Affirmative Action to include all Veterans;
• Expands the terms sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ to all state anti-discrimination laws.
Washington Anti-Discrimination Act is urgently needed to prevent discriminatory laws and actions from increasing disparities and deaths in our most vulnerable communities during and after this public health emergency.