Though state troopers working for the Washington State Patrol are generally covered by Washington’s collective bargaining statutes calling for binding arbitration as the last step of the bargaining process, Washington state law has some unusual trooper-specific statutes. In particular, a statute provides that after an arbitration hearing, “the Governor shall submit a request for funds necessary to implement the wage and wage-related matters in the collective bargaining agreement or for legislation necessary to implement the agreement.”
When the State and the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract, their disputes were referred to an arbitrator. The Arbitrator’s award included wage increases effective July 1, 2009, January 1, 2010, July 1, 2010, and January 1, 2011. When the Governor submitted her budget for the July 1, 2009 biennium to the Legislature, she did not include a request for the funds necessary to implement the wage increases awarded by the Arbitrator. The Association responded by filing an unfair labor practice complaint alleging that the State breached its obligation to bargain in good faith and interfered with the Association’s rights.
Adopting the decision of a hearing’s examiner, Washington’s Public Employment Relations Commission agreed with the Association, and found that the State had committed an unfair labor practice. The State argued that the arbitration statute was ambiguous, and that the true intent of the legislation did not require the governor to submit a request to the Legislature for funds to implement the arbitration award. The Commission found that “it is neither necessary nor appropriate to engage in a statutory construction analysis in this case. When interpreting a statute the Commission administers, the Commission gives the statute its plain and ordinary meaning unless the statute is ambiguous. In this case, the statute is clear on its face. Its meaning demonstrates no ambiguity and it is not susceptible to more than one reasonable meaning.
“Provided certain conditions are met, the governor ‘shall submit a request for funds necessary to implement the wage and wage-related matters in the collective bargaining agreement or for legislation necessary to implement the agreement.’ While clearly and unequivocally obligating the governor to request the funds necessary to implement the wage increases awarded by the Arbitrator, this required action constitutes a key part of the statutory collective bargaining process. The governor’s failure to comply with the requirement constitutes a refusal to bargain.”
The State also argued that the use of the word “shall” in the statute did not mean the equivalent of “must,” but that “the Legislature employed the word ‘shall’ in a permissive sense.” The Commission disagreed, finding that nothing in the state law suggested “the Legislature intended ‘shall’ to convey anything other than a mandatory obligation. Other provisions within the collective bargaining law include the word ‘may’ in addition to ‘shall,’ demonstrating that the Legislature draws a distinction between mandatory and discretionary provisions.”
Washington State Patrol Troopers Association v. State of Washington, Decision 10313A-PECB (Wash. PERC 2009).
This article appears in the June 2009 issue