Two unions representing workers at state-operated liquor stores and drivers who handle deliveries to the stores filed suit Tuesday to block the privatization initiative passed last month by Washington voters.

According to the plaintiffs, I-1183 violates the so-called single-issue rule, which says a voter initiative cannot make multiple changes to state law.

The two unions -- United Fruit and Commercia Workers Local 21 and Washington Teamsters Joint Council 28 -- charge that the millions Costco Inc. spent in support of I-1883 obscured the initiative's full intent, which includes changing the laws for both distribution and sale of wine; changing the ability of the Liquor Control Board to regulate alcohol advertising; and creating new franchise protections for spirits distributors.

UFCW's Tom Geiger said, Our democracy is threatened when one corporation like Costco can write a complex initiative, pay for the signatures, pay for the ads that control the debate, all the while avoiding discussion on the other parts of the proposal that are the true motivations by the corporation in the 1st place.

The initiative requires the Liquor Control Board to close 164 state liquor stores by June 1, 2012, affecting about 700 full- and part-time state employees. Private distributors and retailers will be able to apply for licenses to distribute hard liquor, and distributors can start selling spirits on March 1, 2012. Private retailers such as Costco and Safeway will begin selling liquor on June 1, 2012.

(See also Seattle Times article on the suit.)

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