The state’s Open Public Meetings law requires many government meetings to be open to the public, but collective bargaining negotiations between unions and government negotiators are exempt. Some states make their negotiations public, but in Washington, state officials and the unions prefer the door to be closed.
The current contract with state employees dictates rules for the on-going negotiations on the next contract, including what the two sides can say publically:
Bargaining sessions will be closed to the press and the public unless agreed otherwise by the chief spokespersons. No proposals will be placed on the parties’ web sites. The parties are not precluded from generally communicating with their respective constituencies about the status of negotiations while they are taking place. There will be no public disclosure or public discussion of the issues being negotiated until resolution or impasse is reached on all issues submitted for negotiations.
So, per those agreed rules, the union seemed almost proud to tell its members that it can’t put out many details about the negotiations because the rules preclude “divulging details as bargaining is in progress – an agreement negotiated several rounds ago in part so management doesn’t grandstand and poison the public against a strong contract we believe supports public services and efficiency.”
Contrast that with Gov. Jay Inslee, who spoke recently to the Washington Federation of State Employees, the union he is currently “negotiating” with, to tell them he wants big pay raises for them in the next contract. This is Jay Inslee’s idea of contract negotiations: Employees come in with a list of demands, and Inslee says ‘Yes, yes, and yes.’
That shouldn’t be too surprising, though – it’s payback time. Labor unions donated $5.8 million to elect Jay Inslee, and Jay isn’t going to let them down now.