How it looks today…
Workers in Spokane are laboring under state law that says they are “at-will”, equal partners with their employer in an employment contract. Though workers can quit at-will, what is more powerfully felt is that employers can terminate that work relationship at-will, meaning they can terminate a worker without cause.
Only certain public and private union workers have just cause protections as part of their collective bargaining agreements. Otherwise there are no such protections in the private sector, unless you have a contract that explicitly spells out just cause for termination, such as corporate executives and professional athletes enjoy.
Today in the workplace employers wield far greater power, privileges, and “rights” than workers, especially when it comes to job security.
Only one state in the United States, Montana, protects workers and employers with a just cause for termination law. Enacted in 1987, the law has helped to stabilize wrongful termination lawsuits and kept that state economically viable as compared to surrounding states.
What We Know…
The “At-Will” Labor Doctrine the US subscribes to, has never been proven to be an effective, nor just means for workers, let alone a sound business practice for employers. A basic tenet of fairness in American democracy – a kind of workplace due process – is being denied when at-will work status is the recognized standard.
What it could be…
By adopting the Worker Bill of Rights, Spokane will correct for the unfairness that is the at-will employment status by securing the Right Not to Be Wrongfully Terminated. This would apply to employers with 10 or more FTEs (full-time equivelent workers) and would require a fair and equitable process for reviewing job performance, adjustments to that job performance, and steps for termination.
For employers it would exempt out those workers in a probationary period, enrolled in a Washington state apprenticeship program, with an agreed upon end date for work performed, certain economic hardship (i.e. bankruptcy), and if there is a special circumstance, such as a worker being violent in the workplace.
Spokane would honor workers in the way they should be with protecting not only their right to be heard, but to be judged on the merits of their work performed. It would stabilize the work environment and economy to the betterment of employees, employers, and the community.