The following is from the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO:
BELLINGHAM (Oct. 9, 2020) — On Tuesday, Oct. 13, the Whatcom County Council (pictured above) will consider a proposal to make all collective bargaining sessions between the county and its employee unions open to the public. The resolution is modeled after one in Lincoln County, where the county was found to have committed an Unfair Labor Practice with its implementation and is currently under costly litigation.
“This is an idea straight out of the anti-union Freedom Foundation’s playbook of ‘right to work’ laws intended to politicize and hamper collective bargaining rights,” said Michele Stelovich, President of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council and a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “This simply runs contrary to Whatcom County values.”
TAKE A STAND — If you live in Whatcom County, please click here to send a message to Whatcom County Executive Satpal Singh Sidhu and all seven county council members urging them to REJECT this malicious ordinance. If you don’t live in Whatcom County, but know people who do, please forward this link — https://bit.ly/30Smwky — to them and urge them to send the message. ALSO, please call these council members directly and urge them to oppose this:
Whatcom County Executive
Satpal Singh Sidhu — 360-778-5200
Whatcom County Council
Rud Browne — 360-820-9494
Todd Donovan — 360-483-8474
Tyler Byrd — 360-778-5021
Kathy Kershner — 360-220-7535
Ben Elenbaas — 360-778-5025
Barry Buchanon — 360-224-4330
Carol Frazey — 360-778-5024
The Whatcom County Council is scheduled to vote on this ordinance on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. Click here to join and participate in that virtual council meeting. There is a comment period at the beginning of the meeting.
BACKGROUND — On Sept. 29, Whatcom County Councilmembers Tyler Byrd, Kathy Kershner and Ben Elenbaas proposed an ordinance entitled “Increasing Community Oversight and Transparency to Establish Fair Contract Negotiations.” It would make all collective bargaining sessions between the county and its employee unions open to the public.
Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act specifically carves out collective bargaining sessions for a good reason. It’s because these negotiations are best held when parties have equal footing and are able to engage in free and frank conversations and problem solving.
State, county and municipal governments routinely negotiate behind closed doors. They do so, for example, to consider the purchase of real estate or to review the performance of publicly bid contracts. That’s because public knowledge of such considerations would likely cause an increased price and interference from interested third parties beyond the general public.
The same is true of contract bargaining involving public employees. Once negotiations are exposed to the public, it becomes easier for third parties to interfere in and politicize the work of coming to a common agreement.
The public currently has the opportunity to discuss and weigh in on any tentative contract agreement that is the product of these negotiations, and urge public officials to accept or reject that agreement and return to the bargaining table. That protects the public’s interest without hampering the ability of both sides to reach a tentative agreement in the first place.
If Whatcom County council members approve this resolution and open collective bargaining sessions to the public:
● It will likely subject Whatcom County taxpayers to costly litigation;
● It will unfairly target county employees who have a collective bargaining agreement; and ultimately
● It will suppress workers’ freedom to join together in a union and have a voice at work.
If you live in Whatcom County, please take action to protect county employees’ union rights and and tell county council members to REJECT this malicious ordinance.