Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia reintroduced legislation, Senate Bill 5329 that would require public employees’ union negotiations to be open to the public. Currently these negotiations are exempt from Washington’s progressive open meetings requirement.
“I believe that this is an important policy for our state because the current process is not working,” said Braun. “Public sector collective bargaining should not be done in secret when the bill for those commitments ultimately goes to the taxpayers. Citizens of our state should have the right to see how those negotiations are conducted.”
The Open Public Meetings Act requires that all meetings of governing bodies of public agencies, be open and accessible to the public, however, public employee collective bargaining is exempt from compliance. A meeting is generally defined as any situation where a majority of members from a governing body meet and discuss the business of that body. Braun’s proposed legislation would remove the current exemption from the act and require collective bargaining meetings to be open to the public.
“Eliminating this exemption is a reasonable step toward increasing transparency in government that we’ve seen work well in other states,” Braun said. “This policy ensures a balance between the interests of our state employees and the taxpayers.”
If adopted, Washington would join 13 other states with similar open meeting requirements for collective bargaining including neighboring Oregon and Idaho.