What is Referendum 88?

Referendum 88 will decide the fate of Initiative 1000 (see below), a ballot initiative approved by the legislature last year. An “approve” vote on Referendum 88 will enable I-1000 to move forward; a “reject” vote will block it from becoming law.

What is Initiative 1000?

Initiative 1000 would reverse a statewide ban on affirmative action enacted by ballot initiative in 1998 (I-200). Initiative 1000 allows for characteristics such as race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status to be used as factors when considering a person for public education or public employment, but prohibits the use of quotas or preferential treatment.

I-1000 also creates the Governor’s Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which oversees the state’s progress on its goal to guarantee “every resident of Washington state equal opportunity and access to public education and public employment.”

Why is an approve vote on Referendum 88 so important?

Opponents of affirmative action often reference it as reverse discrimination. In truth, opposing affirmative action validates the status quo—a status quo that is constructed on and maintained by centuries of institutionalized racism and oppression.

Racial discrimination seeps into every aspect of society, including home-ownership, employment, healthcare, criminalization, child welfare involvement, and education. To this day, Black households have only 10 cents in wealth for every dollar held by White households, and rates of Black homeownership (43%) are almost half those of White ownership (73%)—the same level as in the 1960s when discrimination, such as redlining and racial covenants, was legal.

In the twenty-one years since I-200 banned affirmative action, racial inequities in education and employment have only widened: state contracts for businesses and people and color decreased from 10% to between 3% and 1%; rates of Black, Native American, and Pacific Islander students enrolled in 4-year colleges decreased statewide; and Seattle Public Schools are six times more segregated than in 1990.

Discrimination is not only based on race; it also impacts every other protected class listed in I-1000. Regardless of industry or education level, women in the US make 82 cents for every dollar made by men, and the gaps are even wider for women of color. Older workers face longer lengths of time to get hired into new positions, with an average one-year-long employment wait for a 54-year-old job-hunter. Transgender people are three times more likely to be unemployed than the general population, while the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether employers can legally discriminate against LGBTQ people in the workplace. And people with disabilities are 41% less likely to be employed than people without disabilities.

Undoing our society’s deep inequities—from race to age to ability to sexuality—requires us to identify and overturn the laws that have created and maintained that inequity. That means passing laws like I-1000.

What is the impact on young people experiencing homelessness?

The demographics of young people experiencing homelessness give a clear picture of how racism and oppression operate today and why laws like I-1000 are so critical. More than a third of young people experiencing homelessness in King County identify as LGBTQ and almost two-thirds are youth of color. The two systems with the largest pipelines into homelessness—the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system—show similar disproportionalities. Nationally, almost half of the youth in foster care are youth of color, and two-thirds of youth in the juvenile justice system are youth of color.

YouthCare is committed to addressing the root causes of youth homelessness and dismantling the barriers that young people face every day. I-200’s ban on affirmative action is one of those barriers.

Initiative 1000 would increase educational and employment access for the young people we serve. It is a critical step toward a more fair and equitable society—one that expands access to those who have been historically denied it. Vote to approve Referendum 88!