Shining Light on Secret Public Sector Labor Negotiations

By TJ Martinell, The Lens

Two state Republican Senate bills aim to reform contract negotiations currently held in secret between public officials and public sector unions. SB 5545 would make state and local collective bargaining negotiations subject to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, while SB 5533 seeks to eliminate perceived conflicts of interest between collective bargaining groups that can contribute to gubernatorial campaigns even as they negotiate with the governor.

…SB 5533 chief sponsor State Sen. Dino Rossi (R-45) told panel members allowing this creates “the appearance of corruption. I’m not saying the governor’s corrupt. I’m saying it has the appearance, and we should eliminate that.”

SB 5533 prohibits any group that collectively bargains with the state from donating to any gubernatorial candidate. This would also apply to any political committees using donation money from collective bargaining groups, unless those funds were segregated. The state approved a similar law for the State Insurance Commissioner in 1947.

If approved, SB 5533 would be placed on the ballot this November as a referendum.

“This is a clean government bill, is what this is,” Rossi said.

In agreement is Washington Policy Center Labor Reform Director Erin Shannon, who told the committee that “the mere perception of a quid pro quo is sufficient to cast doubt” on the integrity of the process.

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