Meanwhile, thousands of municipal employees and unionized districts are about to negotiate not only new contracts, but also rules that will determine whether these negotiations are public or private. Currently, the municipality is conducting negotiations with public unions. The City Council must sign the final agreement and may receive updates throughout the process at the executive meeting, but the negotiations are not public. Washington Interlocal Cooperation Act, Chapter 39.34 RCW authorizes public bodies to enter into contracts with other public sector agencies for interlocal agreements allowing cooperation between agencies for the implementation of government activities and the provision of public services. The law also allows the creation of non-profit businesses to achieve these goals. Collective bargaining has traditionally been held behind closed doors, but Spokane County commissioners have recently voted in favour of public bargaining. And in November, more than 75 percent of the city`s voters agreed to change the city`s charter, forcing the city to negotiate with unions at public meetings. Now, government officials and public sector unions are trying to see if – and if so, how – they are complying with these changes. Commissioner al-French stated that the county had not used the requirements of the open meeting because they had adopted it in a short period of time without open negotiations. Contracts for more than 1,500 county employees will be open by the end of the year, and district commissioners and unions representing these workers have not agreed on whether wage and benefit negotiations would be public. Cathcart believes spokane has separated from other communities that have attempted to give mandate to open collective bargaining by anchoring the rule in the city`s charter with voter support. Randy Withrow, the county`s human resources manager, who is negotiating on behalf of the commissioners, said it was clear that the meetings should be opened.
He said the county had met with unions who opposed open meetings to set the ground rules and had not yet agreed on a solution. While Spokane County and the City of Spokane have an obligation to negotiate in public with public sector unions, they have not yet held a single round of open negotiations.