The Washington State Supreme Court has not only struck down a voter-passed mandate in the City of Spokane but also set precedent for the rest of the state.
State Supreme Court strikes down public collective bargaining mandate
Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center reported over the weekend, the WA State Supreme Court has overturned a 2019 Spokane city charter mandate.
Voters, by about an 80 percent margin, passed what’s called a City Charter, requiring collective bargaining agreements to be open to public observation. However, following a lengthy lawsuit by a labor union, late last week the Court handed down its decision.
Court says public observation can only be obtained by changing bargaining laws.
The Court ruled that the legislature has created a “uniform” system of collective bargaining by way of the PERC (Public Employment Relations Commission) and the PECBA (Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act) which supersedes local rules or charters.
The Spokane charter required public observation of collective bargaining between unions and the city as well as other related negotiations. The purpose was to allow citizens to see what was happening and make it easier to provide their opinions.
However, the court ruled, because of this system, ” local governments lack authority to regulate in the same space because the local ordinances defeat the uniformity intended by the legislature.”
The court went on to say the only way this could be changed is either by the legislature or a referendum or initiative by the people.
This ruling sets a precedent that cities, counties, and municipalities cannot require open transparent bargaining, regardless of citizen opinion.
Many citizen groups, legislators, and political leaders have been pushing for years to get more transparency in union collective bargaining instead of having it done in secret behind closed doors.
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