November 20, 2012: Email to Mike Burke from Lisa Herbold, Seattle City Council Member, about the Guild Contract and vote.
Thank you for writing me about the collective bargaining agreement between the City of Seattle and the Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG). The agreement runs through 2020 and covers wages, hours and working conditions. The City Council voted to approve the agreement by an 8-1. I voted in favor.
With this vote, Seattle police officers will see an accumulated 17% pay increase, and back pay for salary increases. The legislation appropriates $65 million for three years of accumulated officer increased back pay. This means that the salary increases included in the contract will be given to the officers for the 3 years that they didn’t have a contract. In addition to the back pay, total spending for salaries will increase by $40 million in 2019, and $50 million in 2020, as noted in the fiscal note. The Council today voted to add this funding to the 2019 and 2020 City budget.
In the interest of transparency, I moved to add a Clerk File to the legislative record that includes the Memoranda of Understanding and Memoranda of Agreement that are incorporated into the agreement, but were not provided in the legislation sent to the Council by the Mayor. They are now publicly available.
Negotiations on this contract began in 2014, and an agreement was reached in 2016. However, after the Guild membership voted “no” (a summary of the agreement was leaked), the two sides returned to the negotiating table. There were several factors that made this negotiation more complicated than most, principally due to the intersection of police accountability issues and working conditions. It’s also important to understand that all labor contracts must be voted up or down. They cannot be amended by the Council, unlike other legislation.
First of all, the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice entered into a Consent Decree and MOU in 2012 after the DOJ found excessive use of force in 2011 in response to a 2010 request letter from a number of community groups. As part of this process, in 2017 the Council adopted the accountability ordinance. In addition, former Mayor Murray ordered the use of body-worn cameras. Then in June of this 2018, the Janus decision by the US Supreme Court overturned 40 years of precedent regarding union dues for public employees. In this new environment, public sector unions must show value to their members.
In addition, while the contact adopted by the Council in 2017 for the Seattle Police Management Association (which represents captains and lieutenants) included a provision that said, “the City may implement the Accountability Ordinance,” the SPOG contract didn’t include a similar provision, so understanding the practical impact required a more detailed analysis of the 96-page agreement.
I have heard from numerous supporters and opponents of this agreement, and I’d like to say a few things to each of you.
To supporters, I want to be sure you know that opponents of this contract were very clear that they support the wage increases for officers included in the agreement. I didn’t hear a single person speak against the long overdue wage increases—in fact, many who spoke against the agreement explicitly advocated for approving salary increases. Their concerns were about implementation of the police accountability legislation.
To opponents, I’d like to you know SPOG could have challenged the inclusion of the accountability ordinance and body cameras in this agreement, because they were not included when bargaining began in 2014. Bargaining rules require that all issues must be on the table at the beginning of bargaining. SPOG voluntarily agreed to include these issues, which showed a willingness to collaborate on implementing reform.
While the lack of a contract may not have hindered new officer hires in 2016 and 2017—both years had a record number of hires— it appears to be now in 2018: this is a real issue. I’ve voted to add 112 new officer positions over my time as a Councilmember, and I will vote to add 40 more at Monday’s Full Council budget vote. This contract is a necessary step to filling those positions. I’ve asked SPD about providing incentives for hiring new officers, as other local cities have done.
Finally, officers have played an important role in implementing reform. The court-appointed Federal Monitor issued a Use of Force report in 2017 that credited officers for clear improvements regarding use of force, saying “credit for this major milestone goes first and foremost to the men and women of the Seattle Police Department.”
With the Council’s vote, the agreement is ripe for review by US Judge Robart, who is overseeing implementation of the Consent Decree. On November 5th, he stated he would review it only after a Council vote. In January, he noted that “The court has previously indicated that it will not grant final approval to the City’s new police accountability ordinance until after collective bargaining is complete.” The Council also adopted a resolution requesting review of three items related to police accountability.
I’ve included my remarks at the City Council vote here. It’s a bit long, so I wanted to provide a more concise summary, but also include this for anyone interested in reading it.
District 1 Councilmember, Chair Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee