There are many good and decent public leaders in Washington State. There, I said it.
Amidst the unrelenting corruption, divisiveness, virtue signaling, ahistorical progressive claims, lying, and moral compromise exhibited by so many of our elected and appointed officials, it’s like refreshing, cold water to visit Lincoln County.
The County is small, efficient, compassionate, constituent-centered government at its finest, helmed by three men of integrity and civic commitment.
I’m proud to represent Lincoln County in their current struggle against the Teamsters union. In 2016, the Commissioners unanimously adopted a countywide resolution declaring that public employee collective bargaining agreements – the largest line items on the taxpayers’ budget – would be negotiated in open public meetings.
More than 70% of Lincoln County residents love the idea. Naturally. Transparent government makes for better government.
Apparently, the Teamsters believe transparency is a no good, very bad, horrible thing – particularly when it would (GASP!) allow the public (as well as the employees represented by the Teamsters) to see how the union performs its primary function, negotiating contracts.
The Teamsters sued the County once before PERC, trying to strike down the transparency resolution, and lost. In early 2017, they concocted a new scheme to challenge it. After negotiating in one open session successfully, they started the second session with their lawyer demanding that the session be closed before they would resume bargaining.
When the County Commissioners declined, the union folks left. The Commissioners stayed in their chairs, in their chamber, until the union left the building. The union refused to bargain.
Of course, the Teamsters are not famous for their subtlety. They were clearly teeing up a new legal challenge to the resolution.
Instead, the County refused to passively wait while the union broke the law by refusing to bargain, and instead filed its own legal complaint before the Public Employment Relations Commission.
Predictably, the Teamsters filed their new complaint the next day.
Every hard-working Teamster must be so proud of the way the union is spending their hard-earned membership dues and nonmember fees.
After an administrative trial, the Hearing Examiner recently issued a decision – which is, frankly, mystifying. It basically equates to “a pox on both your houses.” It gets a few things right, and a lot of things wrong.
But, back to the strong and resolute leadership of the Commission. They’re determined to fight. The Commissioners issued the following statement:
On April 3, a PERC Hearing Examiner issued an Order finding that both the County and the Teamsters committed unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain with one another in February 2017. This decision was half-right and half-wrong. The Teamsters unquestionably refused to bargain with the County unless they could do so in private. But the County never refused to bargain and never acted in bad faith. In fact, the County has always stood ready to bargain with the Teamsters – even today. As the elected representatives of the people of Lincoln County, we are empowered by our constituents and state law to set forth a policy of open collective bargaining. We continue to stand by that policy 100%. In our opinion, the Hearing Examiner’s Order contains several errors that need to be corrected. It also utterly fails to provide any meaningful path forward for the parties.
We will appeal to the full Public Employment Relations Commission and then to the courts, if necessary. No matter how long it takes, we will fight to protect the rights of Lincoln County and its people to promote common-sense government transparency.
This is the right thing to do. Let these Commissioners be a lesson to all the rest. Fight the fights that matter.
Open, accountable government matters.