City Responds: AFSCME Unfair Labor Charge

Posted on 07/10/2020

On July 8, 2020, the City of Mill Creek responded briefly to the unfair labor practice charge filed by AFSCME with the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). The City has now had further opportunity to review the charge, so this press release supplements the City’s earlier statement.

The City continues to believe that AFSCME’s PERC charge fails to state a violation of the laws enforced by PERC. The City provided ample notice to AFSCME of its intent to implement the layoff decisions by complying with the CBA’s 30 days’ notice provision. During this 30 day period, the City provided information requested by AFSCME, invited proposals from AFSCME and met telephonically with AFSCME on numerous occasions.

Under the collective bargaining agreement with the City, AFSCME has no contractual right to bargain over the layoff decisions. Instead, under the agreement, the parties are obligated only to bargain over the effects of those layoff decisions on the individuals impacted by the decision. To date, the City has not received any proposal from AFSCME regarding the effects of layoffs on the three affected represented employees. Rather, AFSCME has spent the last 30 days attempting to reverse the City’s decision to reduce its force through layoffs.

At the many requested meetings, the City has shared information with AFSCME regarding the financial reasons for layoffs. The City has sincerely and in good faith considered AFSCME’s proposal for furloughs in lieu of layoffs, despite having no obligation to do so. Indeed, the City’s good faith is demonstrated by its counterproposal last week offering to pay some COBRA costs to the represented employees subject to the layoff. To date, the City has not received a meaningful response from AFSCME on that counterproposal—even though the proposal was initially communicated to AFSCME’s Director of Staff Services Miguel Morga more than one week ago on Wednesday, July 1.

AFSCME’s unfair labor practice charge states that the City of Mill Creek has a duty to bargain with the union over the decision to eliminate positions and lay off employees represented by the union. The City believes that the union misstates applicable law. The very cases that AFSCME cites in its charge do not support its position. For example, in one of the decisions that AFSCME cites, PERC states, “the employer had the right to make a managerial decision concerning the need to reduce staffing (lay off employees) in order to balance its budget. This is the type of business decision that lies at the core of entrepreneurial control.” AFSCME conveniently ignores this, so the City believes it is important to correct the record.

To the extent that the union is arguing that the City Council should have approved the layoffs before they were implemented, the union misstates the law. As explained in the City’s previous statement on July 9, the system of government in Mill Creek makes the City Council responsible for setting the budget, including spending and revenue targets. The City Council then delegates to the City Manager the responsibility for operating the city, delivering the services provided for in the budget, and balancing that budget, even in difficult financial circumstances like these. The City Manager is also responsible for making personnel decisions, including decisions about individual employees, and bargaining with the union. As a matter of City ordinance and state law, the Council is prohibited from interfering with the City Manager’s personnel decisions, including decisions about individual employees.

The City of Mill Creek sincerely regrets that the current financial circumstances caused by COVID-19 and the City’s operational needs resulted in these layoffs. The City has arranged for a consultant to provide laid off employees with re-employment support services, including help with their resumes, and job interview coaching. In addition, the City remains available to discuss the effects of the layoff decisions with AFSCME, including how the City might help alleviate the impacts on the employees represented by the union. The City currently awaits AFSCME’s response to its latest offer, and reiterates that it remains available to discuss this matter further with the union.

The City of Mill Creek will have no further comments at this time on AFSCME’s unfair labor practice charge.

Michael Ciaravino