Government transparency is not an “unfair labor practice”
When you think of government transparency there are many positive descriptors that come to mind. Here is how outgoing President Obama describes it:
"Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing . . . Public engagement enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge."
One phrase that should never be associated with government transparency, however, is "unfair labor practice." Thanks to a ruling this week by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) it won't be in Washington.
On January 10, PERC dismissed a complaint from several unions against Lincoln County for adopting a resolution to require future collective bargaining talks with government employees to be conducted transparently. The unions had claimed that the Lincoln County resolution was an "unfair labor practice."
"From this day forward, Lincoln County shall conduct all collective bargaining contract negotiations in a manner that is open to the public; AND Lincoln County shall provide public notice of all collective bargaining negotiations in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30.060 - 42.30.080) . . ."
With this fantastic ruling from PERC rejecting the unions' complaint, the rest of the state’s school districts, cities & counties now have a green light to open the doors to the public on taxpayer funded employment contracts. This is something state lawmakers should also do concerning the secretly negotiated contracts between the Governor and state employee unions.
Seeing the contentious reception those secretly negotiated contracts have already received from the new Chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, we may see more efforts this session to reform this process and follow Lincoln County's bold lead embracing government transparency.