When Captain Daniella Young left the active duty Army in 2015, after two tours in Afghanistan, including her participation as one of the first women integrated with traditionally all-male units to conduct deliberate ground combat operations, she followed her dream of starting a business and making a successful transition to civilian life. Yet for Young and many others — women, veterans, small business owners, seniors and historically underrepresented communities — Young found more obstacles than open doors.
As Washingtonians, we believe in fairness and opportunity for everyone, whether that means getting an education, a good paying job, or running a business. But we know that even in this strong economy, too many of our families, communities and neighbors are unfairly left behind.
We can take a big step forward in creating opportunity and a level playing field for all by approving Referendum 88/Initiative 1000 on our November general election ballot.
As former Washington state governors, Democrat and Republican, we have been committed to supporting the families, businesses and diverse communities that make our state a wonderful place to live, work, play and raise a family. We applaud the work of so many in the private and public sector committed to our shared values of inclusivity and innovation.
Yet our best efforts are frequently undermined by the fact that Washington is one of only eight states that bans affirmative action consideration for women, all veterans and service members, older Washingtonians, and communities that have been left out or left behind.
This lack of fairness means some doors are closed, and others never opened, for qualified workers and businesses to be recruited into state employment and contracting. In the 20 years since affirmative action was banned, fewer women and minority-owned businesses are receiving government contracts, our colleges and universities are less representative of our state’s population, and Washington’s gender pay gap remains unacceptable.
We can change that by approving Referendum 88/Initiative 1000 on the November ballot.
Approved by the state Legislature in April, Initiative 1000 simply restores fairness to government employment, public-sector contracting, and at our state colleges and universities by explicitly allowing the use of common-sense tools like outreach, recruitment and advertising to help expand the pool of qualified applicants. Referendum 88 was designed to require a statewide vote on I-1000.
Quotas, set asides and preferences are specifically banned by I-1000. Don’t be fooled by those who tell you otherwise. If you are qualified you should be eligible for a job, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, military service or other factors.
An important part of I-1000 is that no veteran preferences will be eliminated. Instead, I-1000 expands programs that target Vietnam-era veterans to include all honorably discharged veterans — like Daniella — and those with military status. I-1000 continues the kind of bonus points or extra consideration that many veterans receive today.
When Daniella decided to support I-1000, she reflected that her own trailblazing role as one of the first women in deliberate ground combat was a form of affirmative action. In fact, the history of integration in our armed forces reflects a commitment to promotion based on merit, regardless of race or gender. History shows that when done right, affirmative action can be an important and powerful tool to open opportunities to all qualified people.
These barriers still exist for too many, but with I-1000 we have a chance to break some of them down, just as Daniella did when she risked her own life to serve our country in combat.
Let’s approve I-1000 to help every Washingtonian get the opportunities we all deserve, building a positive legacy for all the people in our great state. Please look for Referendum 88 on your ballot, and approve I-1000.