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New union complaint against Washam; recall effort in the future?

Post by David Wickert on Sep. 10, 2009 at 10:28 am with 8 Comments »
September 28, 2009 1:30 pm

A new complaint accuses Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam

Dale Washam
Dale Washam

of unfair labor practices, discrimination and retaliation.

The Teamsters Local Union 117 filed the complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Commission last week. It accuses the assessor of several violations of state labor laws, including refusing to engage in good-faith collective bargaining and discrimination and retaliation against employees

(Here’s a PDF copy of the union complaint)

Mary Ann Brennan, public sector coordinator for the Teamsters local, said Washam’s behavior has led to poor working conditions in the assessor-treasurer’s office. She said employees soon will file additional complaints against Washam.

When asked if the union might lead a future effort to recall the elected assessor, Brennan responded: “What we’re doing right now is going through the venues we have, which right now is (the state commission). Down the road, I don’t know. I can’t say.”

Washam denied the allegations, saying they are an effort to oppose changes he’s making to improve accountability and efficiency in his office. As to the possibility of a recall petition, he said, “It is a free country and a citizen’s right that I support.”

The Teamsters local represents nearly all of the roughly 85 employees in the assessor-treasurer office. Its complaint to the state commission cites a recent Washam decision to change work schedules and other working conditions without bargaining with the union.

Washam outlined the changes in a July 31 memo to assessor-treasurer employees. In the memo, he cited Pierce County administrative guidelines that appear to give department heads some flexibility in setting work schedules.

The union maintains state law requires collective bargaining for working conditions.

Among the changes Washam imposed was the elimination of “flex” time and other work arrangements that gave employees some control over their schedules.

The complaint also cited Washam’s decision to designate certain “work discussion areas” for discussing work-related matters. Washam’s memo cites the need to give “consideration to your fellow employees by not disturbing the office work environment and productivity.”

“I don’t understand the purpose of it,” Brennan said of the discussion areas. “It doesn’t have a good feel to it.”

In addition to the changes in working conditions, the complaint cites a recent county investigation that found Washam retaliated against one of his top mangers – Sally Barnes – for filing complaints against him with the Pierce County Human Resources Department.

The report claims Washam has criticized employees for complaining about him and has retaliated by changing their jobs, workload and other working conditions. Brennan said other employees soon will file retaliation complaints against Washam.

The union complaint seeks a ruling that Washam and Pierce County have violated state law. And it seeks to reinstate the jobs and pay of employees the union says have endured discrimination and retaliation.

In written response to questions, Washam said he has always been “willing to engage in negotiations when so warranted.” But he does not believe he must negotiate the scheduling and other changes.

“As the assessor-treasurer, I will always follow the laws of the state of Washington and the USA,” Washam said.

He said the scheduling changes are needed to increase office efficiency. He said he has not retaliated against employees.

Washam did not cooperate with the county’s investigation of the Barnes complaint, which he believes was an effort to discredit him. But he said he will respond to the complaint filed with the state commission.

Update: I spoke with county labor relations manager Joe Carillo. He said human resources department officials believe the schedule changes Washam has made probably are subject to mandatory bargaining.  He said the HR staff offered to sit down with the union on Washam’s behalf. Carillo said a Washam representative told the department that he did not believe he needed to bargain the changes. Without Washam’s participation, Carillo said any negotiations by HR would have been “very ineffectual.”

Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. ldozy1234 says:

    Humm… raises questions.
    So with union prodding, investigations into work practices will be investigated but otherwise everyone declines to investigate fraud claims that might involve those working in this same office and potentially other sections of PC govt.? Funny- many offices within this state and others are changing employee schedules ( despite union complaints) to adjust to budget cuts without such hoopla……..
    While I don’t doubt there is employee anger over work changes, seems like the more Washam pushes for investigation into this offices practices, more employees are finding other avenues to support discrediting him or trying for a recall?
    Not saying he’s correct or his practices are either BUT unless there is a real outside investigation of his claims, seems like the political machine ( and employees that might be involved) might be trying to cover their butts with their own form of sideline attacks.

  2. StayingAwake says:

    “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” (George Orwell)

    Can’t help but get the feeling we are flying above the Cuckoo’s Nest, watching the patients trying to wrestle control of the institution. The same people who chose to look the other way; along with the ones who actively participated or enabled this massive corruption of our tax system, want us to believe the guy with the flashlight and the shovel, trying to break through the big pile of dung, is the source of all problems.

    Washam is doing his job, and he is absolutely right demanding this stench be investigated. The career politicos have been gaming the system for years, helped by their gang of “useful idiots” in the bureaucracy. Laws have been broken and people must be held accountable. These modern day Pharisees have defecated all over the Bible they used when taking their oath to “support the Constitution and the laws of the State of Washington.” They have betrayed their fellow citizens. What is the price? How much to buy their soul? You guessed it, thirty coins an hour or so. Pathetic dependency is not a viable nor honorable legal defense.

    The system is fighting the inconvenient truth. Timing is not opportune for the much needed airing of dirty laundry. Not when they are trying to game the system some more at the ballot box this November, extending term limits, repealing RCV because they can’t control its outcome, and switching to odd/even years so they can slither from office to office and remain leeches for life.

    The system is broken and badly needs repairs. We can pretend the mechanic is the problem, for having the audacity to give us the bad news, or we can accept reality and begin the process of taking our country back. It will never happen unless we all do our part. As for me… no thanks, I don’t care to drink from your Kool-Aid.

    “To see what is in front of one’s nose – needs a constant struggle.” (George Orwell)

  3. PolarBear53 says:

    This is getting out of control. Dale keep fighting for what is right and do what is needed respectfully, Dont back down from these people or unions. The people have spoken and have elected you.

  4. If you ask the Pierce County Auditor’s office how many votes would it take to recall Washam they would tell you to consult an attorney. For more click The New Takhoman link below.
    The New Takhoman

  5. So, HR advised Washam that he couldn’t make the changes without bargaining and he made them anyway? Sounds like a rouge boss to me.

  6. If you hit the bee’s nest with a stick, you will get stung! (No pun intended) Wake up Pierce County citizens!!! Mr. Dale Washam is shaking the tree of corruption in the “good old boy network” that has been corrupting Pierce County for decades! The “friends and family” hiring practices along with pay back favors are only the tip of the iceberg. They can run, but they can’t hide! The truth is going to come out soon, sooner than you think. A little bird that was on the endangered species list has been given a reprieve from a Good Samaritan. The “Ones” trying to cover their tracks, and derail Mr. Dale Washam with deception, deciet, and misdirection will soon “see the light”. A few individuals will change their spurious tune as they are “called on the carpet”. The 800 lb gorilla is on it’s way to the “party”. CITIZENS OF PIERCE COUNTY, CALL MR. DALE WASHAM’S OFFICE AND ASK TO LEAVE A MESSAGE, TELL HIM NOT TO BACK DOWN! CITIZENS OF PIERCE COUNTY, YOUR VOICE COUNTS, DON’T FORGET TO VOTE, IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A CHANGE, GET INVOLVED!

  7. WestBayGuy says:

    Errmmmm….

    Aunt Bee?

    Please calm down, take a deep breath, and then assure me that we’re not on the highway at the same time…

  8. A man finally comes in and does the job as it should be done and someone is talking recall???
    The Council tells him to cut his budget without laying off inspectors and others. So, he trims the budget by cutting a wastetfull policy and altering work schedules. And the deadbeats in the office don’t like it.
    He’s doing what he was elected to do. Manage his department and assess the properties in the County so that they can be properly taxed. Some call this a “rogue boss”? Sounds like effective leadership to me.

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