Can They Really Do That? Daylighting Police Union Negotiations


I wondered for some time why labor had been so hostile to Grant. Now I understand why. Under the guise of a "progressive reformer," he's doing the "Freedom Foundation's" dirty work for them. I'm in favor of every other way to reform police practices in Seattle, but this one is the nose under the camel's tent in the right wing's master plan to disempower all public sector unions. Vote Mosqueda.
Besides the barbarity of using "daylight" as a verb, negotiating labor agreements in public is a dumb idea. Lots of proposals get floated in a confidential setting that would never be raised in a public forum; there's no way to explore how far the other side will go to reach an agreement, if some hypothetical proposal might be used against the party offering it.
Whether it's demanding an arbitrary 25% mandatory affordability when all evidence indicates that policy actually *inhibits* the construction of *any* new housing, or opening up labor negotiations, or promising rent control (which would both require new legislation in Olympia), you have to wonder whether or to what relative extent Grant is simply ignorant of these easily-researchable facts, blinded by SA ideology/orthodoxy, or just cynically pandering to the outsider/revolutionary zeitgeist that's pervaded the left in Seattle.
Many assumptions, much confusion, and little critical analysis in this article.

Labor law, for City of Seattle police relations with the City, are only constrained by Washington State law and by City of Seattle law (with City law allowed to provide additional protections for workers, without in any way limiting state protections). State law allows for confidential labor contract negotiations but in no way mandates it. Washington State Open Meetings laws are a red-herring here, as we are not debating whether the public must be notified and allowed to attend meetings.

Only Seattle City law (SMC 4.04.120(E)) mandates confidential contract negotiations. This law could quickly and easily be changed, without in any way conflicting with other City or State laws. While confidentiality in negotiations can be agreed to in a union contract between police and the City, the confidentiality agreements are not operable or enforceable once a contract expires. When a labor contract expires, only prior contract provisions regarding the actual work and workplace conditions are considered to be binding, until such time as a new contract is negotiated. Therefore, since contracts between the City and the police have expired, the law could be changed now and the negotiations be made public, or a reasonable representation of the public could become involved (e.g., the CPC along with other community representatives). In fact, SMC 4.04.120(B) states that for collective bargaining the Mayor appoints a committee and "The Committee may designate representatives of the Executive or Legislative or other departments or other persons to assist the City's negotiators." Hence, without changing any laws and without violating any labor laws or principles, the Mayor has the option to involve members of the CPC in the confidential negotiations right now.

The article states “It has long been understood that maintaining confidentiality in public sector union negotiations helps ensure good faith bargaining… Labor unions, including those supporting police reform, say any amount of daylight could lead to a slippery slope that threatens the sacrosanct right collective bargaining units to negotiate in good faith.” There are many in the labor movement who believe the opposite: that backroom dealing by union officials and company bosses (or, in this case politicians) often results in the interests of both the public and workers getting undercut. That issue aside, the "slippery slope" argument is always cheap and facile: no social change in history has not been attacked with this canard from across the political spectrum. Think gay marriage ("they will want to marry farm animals next!), pot legalization, legislation providing protected status for vulnerable populations, etc. Should progressives reject certain aspects of criminal justice reform, gun control, or drug decriminalization because the Cato Institute or other right wing groups support these too?

There is a deeper issue not addressed in this article. In typical confidential labor negotiations the workers choose their representatives to sit at a negotiating table, and the boss chooses his or her representatives. Each side is autonomous in who and how it chooses: the workers could choose to have all workers at the table, and the boss could choose to have some or all of the the shareholders or board members of a corporation at the table. With public employees the "boss" is the elected city leaders, and the board or shareholders are the public. So the real debate here should not be about cutting out the public, but instead about "making something broadly public." Again, no law or principle would be violated if a broader set of public representatives were brought into the labor negotiation process.

All the above aside, when it comes time to stop teachers and firefighters from killing and maiming people on a regular basis, I, as a lifelong fighter for union rights, will tolerate the abrogation of a very restricted set of rights to protect far broader and more fundamental rights. We are not automatons that, once pointed toward a slippery slope, must plunge headlong down it.
To clarify my statement (in # 4, above): "So the real debate here should not be about cutting out the public, but instead about 'making something broadly public.' "

What I meant to say is that this article confuses the issue of making something broadly public, i.e., arguing and jockeying for position via the media and public relations, versus involving authentic representatives of the public, i.e., both elected officials and a variety of non-politician community leaders and representatives. Or, to put it another way, instead of arguing for confidential versus day-lighting, we should be arguing about confidential and undemocratic versus confidential and democratic.