Washington’s Spokane County is on the front-line regarding government transparency. Not only have county officials successfully concluded negotiations with the Public Works Guild in meetings open to the public, but they have also been bargaining in public over county employees’ compensation and working conditions with three other unions, including PROTEC17, Teamsters 690 and IUOE Local 280.
Transparency is better for both the taxpayers who pay public employees’ salaries and for union members themselves. The only people who desire secrecy are politicians and union leaders who have something to hide.
Statewide, 70 percent of Washington voters support increased collective bargaining transparency. In the city of Spokane, nearly 80 percent of voters overwhelmingly voted for a 2019 charter amendment to require the city to open its collective bargaining negotiations to public observation.
Sadly, however, one of the unions representing city of Spokane employees, the Washington State Council of County and City Employees (WSCCCE), is refusing to negotiate publicly. Not only are union leaders refusing to bargain in open meetings, but they are also running a public pressure campaign trying to shame the democratically elected county commissioners for standing by this widely popular policy to increase transparency.
While floating the possibility of a strike, running deceptive and misleading radio ads, putting up billboards targeting the commissioners and protesting outside of their offices, union officials claim they’re the ones being bullied by having to ask for more of taxpayers’ money in a public setting.
Union staffers have made several inaccurate or misleading comments to the media, and the union’s radio advertisements are similarly incorrect.
1. “They’re posturing to the public, telling them something that sounds good but doesn’t really work in the real world…” (WSCCCE President Chris Dugovich)
Maybe Dugovich should ask the county commissioners about the contracts they have been negotiating publicly already, or maybe ask Kittitas County, Ferry County, the Pullman School District, or other government bodies that have publicly negotiated union contracts in the “real world” without issue. Not to mention that just across the state line in Idaho, all collective bargaining in government is open to public observation.
2. One radio ad stated, “Even worse, Spokane politicians are violating state law by refusing to negotiate.”
There is a problem with this statement. The county is ready and willing to negotiate. Spokane employees don’t have a raise and a new contract because their union leaders refuse to sit down at the table in a public setting.
3. “If there weren’t organizations and individuals with anti-labor agendas out there, it would be no big deal. People with agendas could be disrupters. Recordings can be cut and pasted and misrepresented.” (Gordon Smith, WSCCCE staff representative)
Does he really want people to believe that the only reason the union opposes transparency is that the Freedom Foundation might “disrupt” the negotiations by recording and taking things out of context?
The only one causing a disruption is Smith’s union. Transparent collective bargaining is happening without issue around Washington and around the country.
Projection is a common tactic employed by union leaders. They bully employers, threaten litigation and strikes, and historically have engaged in violence and destruction of property. Yet, they claim to be the victims.
Union leaders claim others are trying to cause disruptions as they chant and march around with their signs and pack meeting rooms to cheer and jeer.
And most importantly, unions claim transparency will bring greater confusion and the ability to distort reality when, in fact, the opposite is obviously true. This might be the greatest lie the union has ever told.
The truth is, unions desperately wish to control the narrative about collective bargaining, not only to the public when things are not going well and they can leak and make headlines blasting elected officials about the private meetings; but they also like to be able to control and spin what’s happening in the meetings to their members in any light they choose.
If negotiations are going well, perhaps union leadership will choose to characterize the process to its members as contentions to better justify the union’s existence. After all, why do you need a union if there’s no conflict in the workplace?
Open your eyes, public employees of Spokane. Your union leaders are all that stands between you and a raise, and they’re only opposing transparent bargaining because they want to control information and keep you in the dark.