In the Evergreen State, certain state employees have a right to request that a union represent them in collective bargaining. Washington has the Public Employment Relations Commission, or PERC, to manage labor issues with public employees. In its own words, PERC’s mission is “[t]o prevent or minimize the disruption to public services through the impartial, timely, and expert resolution of labor-management disputes.”
Moreover, PERC stresses accountability. That is to say, it allows both public employees and government employers to hold each other accountable by facilitating disputes and coming to resolutions. PERC acts as a neutral third party so that government services will be provided to Washington citizens uninterrupted.
PERC may be a solution to a different issue. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that “collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” The issue with collective bargaining in the public arena, seemingly, is that public employees become an adversary of the public, as represented by the government. It is contradictory, according to some, to be an adversary of the public that you serve.
Assuming that this is true, it would be unfair to disadvantage public service employees just because they hold public sector jobs. To say that a private sector employee deserves more rights than a public-sector employee would be grossly disproportionate. In the state of Washington, public sector employees do have a right of collective bargaining yet have a system, through PERC, that works to resolve labor issues.
Labor disputes occur all the time wherein one party claims that the other side is treating them unfairly. PERC provides mediation services, including mediation with respect to collective bargaining. PERC helps the two sides, through mediation, to come to an agreement.
It also helps resolve issues after the two sides sign an agreement. A public-sector employee may have a grievance against the government and the government responds that it is following the collective bargaining agreement. PERC, as mediator, will provide an interpretation or application of the agreement with the goal of bringing the parties to a resolution.
Similarly, PERC provides hearings regarding unfair labor practices. If one party wants to appeal a PERC mediator’s decision, such party has a right to appeal the ruling to the Commission, which is a three-person committee appointed by the governor. The committee’s job, in part, is to hear appeals that come from the PERC mediator. After the committee, a party to the dispute can appeal the ruling to the courts.
PERC has a history of working with striking public-sector employees to find a resolution to their issues. This has predominantly occurred with striking teachers. In the last six strikes, PERC intervened in all those strikes with three of them not going to court. This is significant because it brought the sides to a resolution so that the employees can get back to doing their public-sector work.
Are you in need of labor and employment representation in the state of Washington? Contact the experienced and knowledgeable labor and employment attorneys of the HKM law firm.