Douglas County commissioners look to make union contract talks public

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Douglas County may soon invite the public into its negotiations with public employee unions.

County commissioners plan to hold a hearing in Waterville at 10 a.m. Tuesday on a resolution that calls for collective bargaining to take place in open meetings, and for all contract proposals to be posted as public documents — even before a contract is settled.

Commissioners told NCWLIFE it’s a way to increase transparency.

“All monies that are spent via negotiated contracts, they’re taxpayer dollars,” Commissioner Dan Sutton said. “And when you’re involving taxpayer dollars I think it’s really important to at least offer them the opportunity to see what’s going on in the negotiations.”

Sutton added that it also protects the labor side of the issue “in that they know everybody is negotiating in good faith.”

Some union representatives disagree.

Five different bargaining units represent more than 200 Douglas County employees, including administrative staff, sheriff’s deputies and highway crews.

Members say it’s part of a statewide effort to weaken unions’ bargaining power.

Similar resolutions have been voted on in Franklin, Kittitas and Lincoln counties.

Legal challenges have been filed in those other counties that may wind up before the Washington Supreme Court.