DAVENPORT, Wash. – Attorneys for Teamsters Local 690 on Monday announced they would not appeal an earlier ruling issued by the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) in favor of Lincoln County after commissioners there approved a resolution to open collective bargaining sessions to the public.
The union's original complaint, filed last fall, alleged the resolution constituted an unfair labor practice. But PERC rejected that argument in late January, ruling there was nothing in state law, the constitution or Lincoln County's existing contract with county employees that prevented future negotiations from being open to the public.
The Teamsters filed a notice of appeal on Jan. 30, but sent a two-sentence letter to PERC Director Mike Sellars on Monday withdrawing that appeal.
The action eliminates the last legal hurdle and allows the commissioners to keep their promise to the community to be more transparent.
"We applaud the Lincoln County commissioners for their courage in seeing this through to its inevitable conclusion," said David Dewhirst, litigation counsel for the Freedom Foundation, which wrote the model resolution approved by the county and represented the commissioners during the complaint and appeal process.
"They understand what too few elected officials in this state do – that their first responsibility is to the people they represent, not union special interests," Dewhirst said.
The commissioners began considering the transparency idea last fall as a way to help sell Lincoln County residents on a tax increase to pay for increased law enforcement. The Freedom Foundation had already drafted a model resolution and sent it to the County months before, so the commissioners were equipped with the policy tools they needed to adopt and implement the transparency resolution in October.
"Open negotiations are the norm in other states where public-sector unions' influence isn't as pervasive," Dewhirst said. "Which is why the Teamsters first threatened the County and then tried to bog it down with this legal action. Public-sector unions in Washington believe that this common-sense transparency reform diminishes their power in some way."
"But it didn't work," he said. "Open contract negotiations may be rare in Washington, but they're not illegal. And the Freedom Foundation has made clear that it will support counties and local governments that are bullied by union bosses. We look forward now to other jurisdictions following Lincoln County's lead and doing the right thing for their constituents, too."