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  tea » archives ยป April 2, 2010 email:  

King County Executive Announces Labor Relations ReOrg

Dow Constantine has made a proposal to the King County Council to elevate KC Labor Relations to report directly to the Executive's office (right now it is a Section within the Human Resources Division in the Department of Executive Services).

Constantine said in a recent speech that he wants to establish a cabinet-level labor relations director who would report to him and Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett. As it stands now labor negotiations are conducted within the Human Resources Division of the Department of Executive Services.

Constantine, the former County Council chairman, also promised to work with the council to make sure the executive and legislative branch worked around common goals.

Early reaction from King County labor leaders was positive.

"On the face of it sounds good. It elevates the process of labor relations to an executive level," said David Freiboth, head of the King County Labor Council. "I see it as an opportunity, if used properly. If not used properly, it could be a problem."

One advantage of having such a high-level labor liaison is that presumably that person would have the power to speak directly for the county during negotiations without having to go through layers of bureaucracy, Freiboth said.

In November the County Council approved a 2010 operating budget that was $628 million. The spending plan the council OK'd eliminated 311 full-time positions to leave a county-wide workforce of 13,586 positions. That's a reduction of 2.2 percent of the county's workforce.

There's at least a $60 million shortfall for the next budget, meaning further layoffs are likely. County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert has proposed giving the county more flexibility by having the option of eliminating automatic cost-of-living raises for employees, imposing furloughs and increasing employee contributions to health care. Her proposal doesn't appear to have much traction with other Council members and unions have opposed the idea.

Keep in mind that all TEA members work in Revenue-Funded departments (WW and Transit) which are not directly tied to King County's general fund (or CX-fund).

A California judge has recently ruled that State agencies not funded by the general fund have to be considered separately and may not be subjected to across-the-board furloughs:

OAKLAND (3/24/10) -- An Alameda County judge said today he would order furloughs halted for tens of thousands of state employees, a ruling that would return the Department of Motor Vehicles and many other state agencies to their normal schedules of five days a week.

Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch had ruled in December that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger violated state law when he ordered the employees to take three days off per month without pay. Today's order, if it stands, will block furloughs of those employees through the end of the fiscal year June 30.

The judge's order applies to 68 offices and agencies that receive most or all of their money from sources other than the state general fund, such as the federal government and specially generated state fees. They include the DMV, the Employment Development Department, Caltrans and the state lottery.

In his December ruling, Roesch said the furloughs violated a law that sets state employees' workweeks at 40 hours. That law allows reductions only to meet a state agency's needs, and Schwarzenegger ordered the furloughs across the board without considering any agency's needs, Roesch said.