SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. – In an effort to maintain the County’s priorities of working in collaboration with our Spokane County employees and conducting government business in a transparent fashion, the Spokane County Commissioners voted unanimously today to amend and replace the County’s previous open public meeting resolution as related to collective bargaining agreements.
The original resolution, passed in December of 2018, aimed to provide transparency to the public specific to collective bargaining negotiation meetings by allowing members of the public and the media to attend, but not participate in the bargaining sessions.
To comply with Washington state law and a recent ruling from the Washington Supreme Court, as well as to continue to encourage transparent communication with our Spokane County employees and constituents, Spokane County amended its resolution to encourage, not require, collective bargaining agreement negotiations to occur in a manner that is open to the public, in the event both parties are mutually willing to do so. The new resolution also reasserts the County’s commitment to working collaboratively with all employees, as they are valued and appreciated members of the Spokane County team.
Chair of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, Mary Kuney said, “Although the majority of citizens supported the original approach to open collective bargaining, this resolution fulfills the requirement to comply with the State Supreme Court decision and also promotes our desire for transparent government.”
Vice Chair Commissioner Josh Kerns stated, “I was disappointed that the Supreme Court ruled against transparency and good governance, but taxpayers still expect elected officials to promote transparency in government especially when it comes to how millions of taxpayer dollars are being bargained with and spent. In fact, 77% of the voters supported our original approach. This resolution is to promote the will of the people in our community.”
Commissioner Amber Waldref stated, “Our Spokane County employees are doing excellent work for the citizens of our region. I am looking forward to building a positive relationship with unions and all Spokane County employees.”
Commissioner Chris Jordan added, “We are revising this resolution today because a majority of our Spokane County workers have chosen to join and be represented by a union. The previous resolution changed bargaining rules in a way that was unlawful, as determined in a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling. I’m disappointed time and taxpayer money was spent on an unnecessary battle with our own employees. I’ve heard from County staff who were distraught over the previous resolution, which delayed employee contracts being finalized for many of our workers. Transparency is important, and this resolution recognizes that. Our workers have rights. The County should respect their rights. I’m hopeful today’s vote can be the start of a new relationship with our workers. They are the backbone of this organization, and we should work together to build respect. As the County, we’d be nowhere without the outstanding, dedicated public servants who work on behalf of our citizens each day.”
Commissioner Al French stated, “As a previous union member I was pleased that Commissioner Kerns and I worked to provide transparency in contract negotiations for both the public and union members as that is what our citizens requested. While the majority of the unions successfully negotiated under this new format, it is unfortunate that the Supreme Court did not see value in doing the public’s business in the full view of the public. Since the time we first passed the original resolution, I have heard from many County employees who were pleased that they could now witness the process that leads to their final contracts. I look forward to working with our valuable county employees to serve Spokane County residents in a transparent fashion.”
A video of today’s hearing can be accessed on Spokane County’s website or by visiting the Spokane County YouTube channel here.