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Both employer and union can violate
their good faith bargaining obligations under the state collective
bargaining laws when one party advances proposals prior to interest
arbitration that are regressive from proposals made earlier in negotiations. In Spokane County (Spokane
County Deputy Sheriff’s Association), PERC Examiner Stephen W. Irvin found, and the
that the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association breached its good faith
bargaining obligations by submitting a regressive wage proposal after impasse
and shortly before the parties’ scheduled interest arbitration hearing.
Association had initially tied its wage proposal to the Consumer Price Index
(CPI); however, the Examiner had concluded that prior to arbitration the
Association severed the tie to the CPI when conveying its wage proposal to the
interest arbitration panel, resulting in an escalated wage demand.
Association argued that it never intended to tie its wage proposal to CPI-U,
because its proposal was meant to offset the potential of significantly higher
costs. The examiner evaluated the union’s overall bargaining behavior and
concluded, “Despite the employer’s insistence on a wage freeze for 2012 and
2013, the possibility existed that the parties could have reached a settlement
on the courthouse steps prior to interest arbitration. The window of
opportunity for a negotiated settlement closed abruptly, however, when the
union switched courses on its wage proposal following months of bilateral
negotiations and mediation in which it consistently maintained its initial
proposal to link wage increases to CPI-U.”
bargaining occurs when one party at the bargaining table in some manner
evidences an attempt to make a proposal less attractive. The Commission has
determined, and the Washington Supreme Court has affirmed, that interest
arbitration represents a continuation of the collective bargaining process and
of the parties’ obligation to bargain in good faith. In this case, the union
argued that its wage proposal did not infect the bargaining process, because
the bargaining process was finished once impasse was declared. The
examiner disagreed, explaining that impasse can and should be broken if
possible, even after the Executive Director has certified the matter for
interest arbitration. “Offers can be changed after interest arbitration has
been invoked, particularly when there is an apparent attempt to narrow the
examiner explained the impact of the Association’s behavior. “Instead of
narrowing the parties’ differences, the union frustrated the collective
bargaining process by making its wage proposal less attractive to the employer
and making it less likely that the parties would be able to reach agreement.”
Irvin also rejected the union’s argument that the employer’s complaint was not
timely. The examiner determined that it was reasonable for the employer to
conclude that the union’s subsequent email regarding
its wage proposal was tied to CPI-U as it had been in its initial proposal.
Therefore, the examiner determined that the employer knew of the change in the
union’s position and filed its complaint within the six months statute oflimitation.
a remedy, Examiner Irvin ordered the union to cease and desist from its illegal
activity, to post appropriate notices, and to enter the interest arbitration
hearing with the initial wage proposal it provided to the employer in which the
wages were tied to CPI.
Note (Chris Casillas): This case is a good reminder that the good faith
bargaining obligation does not cease to operate once an impasse is reached and
the parties have been certified for interest arbitration. There is a
statutory obligation that all collective bargaining be done in “good
faith.” The interest arbitration process was designed to be a final
step in the process to reach a new collective bargaining agreement,
but it is still a part of the collective bargaining process as a whole.
As such, both the employer and union must act in a manner that each side would
reasonably believe could bring the parties closer to a deal rather than
escalating any demands, and such an obligation continues through the