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New Laws Address Collective Bargaining

New Laws Address Collective Bargaining

This article gives an overview of four new laws passed by the 2018 Washington State Legislature regarding public employers. All four of these new laws went into effect June 7, 2018. As always, MRSC legal commentary is not meant to substitute for the legal advice local governments need, especially on these topics.

ESB 6229: Provides “Reasonable Access” to New Employees

ESB 6229 creates a new section in chapter 41.56 RCW, RCW 41.56.037. This chapter requires that new employees be given reasonable access to their exclusive bargaining unit representative to obtain union information.

Previously, collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) would frequently have (and still have) negotiated provisions for access to new employees in order to allow union representatives to explain and provide information about union membership and benefits. This new law mandates that most public employers provide a minimum of 30 minutes of “reasonable access” to new employees during their first 90 days of employment, either at an employee orientation session or another mutually agreed presentation.

These meetings must take place during the employees’ regular work time and at their regular work site, or at another mutually agreeable location. Employers and unions may agree to longer or more frequent informational sessions, but the law now sets a minimum, 30-minute time period.

Under this law, employee attendance at these meetings and/or presentations is voluntary and cannot be required.

ESB 6230: Professional Port Employees May Join Unions

ESB 6230 grants professional port district employees the right to join unions and to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining.

RCW 53.18.010 and RCW 53.18.060 previously excluded professional employees from the statutory definition of port employees with union rights. The new amendments remove the exclusion of professional employees and provide that port professional personnel and port supervisory personnel may not be included in the same bargaining unit.

SB 6231: Clarifies Statute of Limitations for ULP Claims

SB 6231 adds language to 7 different statutes, each containing a 6-month statute of limitations for filing complaints with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) alleging unfair labor practices (ULPs). The new language states that the same 6-month statute of limitations also applies to the filing of ULP complaints “in superior court.”

According to the House Bill Analysis Report, SB 6231 was passed in response to a 2017 Washington Supreme Court decision. Although not named in the House report, in Killian v. Seattle Public Schools (October 2017), the state supreme court held the 2-year statute of limitations applied to the portion of the case based on a ULP complaint instead of the 6-month statute of limitations for PERC complaints. Now all ULP complaints, whether filed with PERC or in superior court, must be filed within six months of the practice serving as the basis for the complaint.

HB 2751: Collecting Union Dues and Agency Fees

(Caution: Potential impact of Janus v. AFSCME SCOTUS decision)

HB 2751 changes the state law requirements placed upon public employers for enforcing security provisions in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and mandates certain payroll deductions. However, this law was passed before the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 case, which held collection of agency fees by public employers to be an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment (for more information, see my prior blog: The Janus SCOTUS Decision: More Questions Than Answers).

The Janus Supreme Court decision has a significant impact on employee rights to decide about their own payroll deductions. Security provisions likely need to be removed from CBAs, and further negotiations between public employers and unions are ongoing. If your agency has an issue related to the provisions of this new law, consult with your attorney.

Questions? Comments?

If you have comments about this blog post or other topics you would like me to write about, please email me. If you have questions about legislation impacting employee collective bargaining or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

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About Linda Gallagher

Linda Gallagher joined MRSC in 2017. She previously served as a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County and as an Assistant Attorney General.

Linda’s municipal law experience includes risk management, torts, civil rights, transit, employment, workers compensation, eminent domain, vehicle licensing, law enforcement, corrections, and public health.

She graduated from the University of Washington School of Law.