Washington CAN has a long history of achieving victories for low and moderate-income people in our state.
Washington CAN was born in the 1970s out of the Seattle/Tacoma Light Brigade, which fought against shutting off electricity for low-income families and against the taxpayer subsidization of nuclear power. During the 1980s, the Light Brigade became Washington Fair Share, joining a national network of organizations fighting for consumer justice and achieving statewide victories such as raising the minimum wage. From the early 1990s until 2006 we fought for justice under the name Washington Citizen Action and now we are Washington Community Action Network.
Throughout our history, Washington CAN accomplishments have included establishing the nation’s highest inflation-indexed minimum wage, passing one of the strongest Patient’s Bill of Rights in the country, ensuring that seasonal farm workers receive the same health benefits as other workers, and spearheading the largest voter registration drive in Washington state history.
Decades Of Accomplishments
For more than 30 years, Washington CAN has worked to promote quality, affordable health care, economic justice, and racial justice for all in our state. Over the past decade, our policy victories include:
Organized immigrants, churches and community members to press local lawmakers to pass an Inclusive City resolution in Auburn in 2017 to protect immigrants rights. As the Donald Trump White House promises to target immigrant communities and use local police departments as an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we supported immigrants and helped them in the fight to protect their families through the power of community organizing.
Led the fight to pass move-in fee legislation in Seattle to curb prohibitive rental fees. The legislation capped the move-in costs landlords charge tenants and requires landlords to accept payment plans for these costs in 2016. Tenants face increasingly high moving costs, and for some, this can lead to homelessness or dangerous situations when renters can't afford to leave an unsafe dwelling. This legislation makes it more feasible for renters to find new homes without facing steep upfront costs.
Served on the steering committee for Raise Up WA. The 2016 initiative raised the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 and created paid sick leave for every worker. Though the cost of living has been steadily increasing, wages across the state have not kept up We joined a coalition of leaders and organizations to make sure minimum wage workers saw an increase in their paycheck, and that they would get mandated paid sick leave. Washington CAN also co-chaired on the $15 for Seattle Coalition, which won a $15 minimum wage in 2014. We led in the effort to increase workers' wages where it first found momentum: in SeaTac. Following on-the-ground organizing, the voters approved an ordinance in 2014 to increase the minimum wage to $15. That ordinance has since stood up in court.
Pushed the "Honest Elections" initiative fight in 2015 bringing Democracy Vouchers to Seattle voters. The vouchers are publicly funded and mean each Seattle resident can donate up to $100 to the local candidates they support, while also implementing new campaign finance regulations to cut back on corporate spending in elections.
Mobilizing communities to pressure lawmakers to pass the Affordable Care Act. We worked with our members and lawmakers to advocate for families like Marci Owens', whose mother died when Owens was a young child, because she couldn't get health insurance. Owens stood by President Barack Obama as he signed the ACA into law. Not only did we organize members to help make the law reality, but we have been on the ground since its signing, defending the legislation even as lawmakers tried again and again to dismantle it.
Led a campaign against Swedish-Providence hospitals in 2015 when they failed to notify patients in-need of their charity care programs and only covered a limited number of people. The hospitals ultimately provided 100% charity care coverage for patients 300% of the Federal Poverty Level or below, and a sliding scale for those above.
Won the reauthorization and expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), including the removal of the five-year bar for legal permanent resident children in 2009. This was a national victory we shared with partners across the country that benefited families nationally.
Advanced the New Americans Initiative in 2008 to determine how the state can more effectively welcome immigrants into Washington communities.
Washington CAN was a lead plaintiff in a successful lawsuit that protected the right to vote for all registered Washington voters in 2006. New federal voter “matching” requirements threatened to disenfranchise thousands of voters, disproportionately low-income people and people of color, whose information did not match records held in state computerized databases.
Registered more than 52,000 voters from low income neighborhoods and communities of color in 2004. Washington CAN implemented the largest non-partisan civic engagement project in state history.
Passed Act for Hungry Families in 2004. This law extended eligibility for Food Stamps to more than 25,000 additional people in the state, expanded school lunch programs, and reduced administrative hurdles in the food assistance application process.
Expanded insurance to families. Washington CAN joined coalition partners in 1999 and advocated for enactment of the state's Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provided health care to more than 10,000 children in the state.
Played a major role in the successful campaign to raise the state minimum wage in 1998. We helped in the push for Initiative 668, which raised the minimum wage and indexed the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation.