Labor Relations – Collective Bargaining


In the state of Washington, several categories of state employees have the right to request that a union represent them for purposes of collective bargaining. The State of Washington’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) has jurisdiction over public sector union representation in Washington state. The PERC gives employees the right to choose to form, join and participate in the activities of employee organizations, such as collective bargaining, for the purpose of union representation on matters governing the employer-employe relationship.

In accordance with the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 41.80.010(4)(a)(i) for classified employees, for the purpose of negotiating agreements for institutions of higher education, the employer shall be the respective governing board of each of the universities, colleges, or community colleges or a designee chosen by the board to negotiate on its behalf. All collective bargaining agreements at WSU are negotiated by and between WSU and the exclusive representative of employees covered by those Agreements.

Collective Bargaining FAQs
Collective Bargaining Agreements

Public School Employees of Washington

Washington Federation of State Employees

WSU Police Guild

2016 Negotiations

Public School Employees of Washington

Washington Federation of State Employees

WSU Police Guild



Collective Bargaining FAQs

  1. What laws in the state of Washington give Higher Education classified employees the right to bargain?
  2. What does it mean to be exclusively represented?
  3. What unions are currently representing employees at WSU?
  4. When does collective bargaining take place?
  5. What does collective bargaining require of WSU and union?
  6. What issues are and are not subject to negotiations?
  7. Will I have any say in the negotiations with WSU?
  8. Does WSU or a union have the ability to unilaterally grant raises?
  9. Can employees in Bargaining Units be required to pay union dues or fees?
  10. If the Contract I am covered by requires the payment of dues, do I have a say through collective bargaining on the amount of union dues and agency/representation fees I must pay?
  11. How long does it take to negotiate a labor contract?
  12. Who pays for negotiations
  13. What happens if WSU and a union cannot reach an agreement on their own?
  14. What is the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC)?
  15. What happens when negotiations for a Contract are complete between WSU and a union?
  16. What happens after the Contract is ratified by WSU and the union?
  17. What happens after the Contract is submitted to the State?
  18. What happens if the Contract submitted to the State is not funded?
  19. Where can I find a copy of my Contract?
  20. Who do I contact if I have questions or need assistance?

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1. What laws in the state of Washington give Higher Education classified employees the right to bargain?

Classified employees in the state of Washington have the right to join unions and to negotiate certain working conditions. Specific rights are covered in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) laws for state collective bargaining listed in RCW Chapter 41.80.

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2. What does it mean to be exclusively represented?

If a union is certified as the exclusive representative of a group of employees, it represents all employees certified in to that Bargaining Unit throughout WSU. The exclusive representative (union) has the authority and the exclusive right to negotiate with WSU management on represented positions’ hours, wages, and other terms and conditions of employment. Once exclusively represented by a union, the legal power of each employee in the Bargaining Unit to individually negotiate terms and conditions of employment is transferred to the union, and the union becomes the agent for all employees in the positions in the Bargaining Unit. Once a union represents a position, any potential wage changes would be determined through the collective bargaining process.

For more information on the Representation process visit our Representation FAQs.

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3. What unions are currently representing employees at WSU?

There are currently three unions representing employees at WSU; Public School Employees of Washington (PSE), Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), and Washington State University Police Guild.

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4. When does collective bargaining take place?

Labor negotiations for the Contracts occur every two years, corresponding with the biennium. Negotiations occur between WSU and the union. They normally begin in the spring of every even year in order to be submitted to the state by the statutory deadline of October 1 of the same year.

Ongoing Contracts are effective from July 1 through June 30 (two fiscal years) and require legislative approval before implementation.

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5. What does collective bargaining require of WSU and union?

WSU and the union are required to meet at reasonable times to negotiate in good faith, over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Neither WSU nor the union is required to agree to any specific proposal or make any specific concession.

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6. What issues are and are not subject to negotiations?

RCW 41.80.020 defines several topics that are mandatory for collective bargaining. These include: wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment
RCW 41.80.040 identifies topics not subject to collective bargaining. The employer shall not bargain over rights of management which, in addition to all powers, duties, and rights established by constitutional provision or statute, shall include but not be limited to the following:

  • The functions and programs of the employer, the use of technology, and the structure of the organization;
  • The employer’s budget and the size of the agency workforce, including determining the financial basis for layoffs;
  • The right to direct and supervise employees
  • The right to take whatever actions are deemed necessary to carry out the mission of the state and its agencies during emergencies; and
  • Retirement plans and retirement benefits.

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7. Will I have any say in the negotiations with WSU?

Each union has its own constitution, or rules that establish the manner in which they select their table team to negotiate Contracts on behalf of represented employees.

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8. Does WSU or a union have the ability to unilaterally grant raises?

No. These matters are part of the negotiations process between WSU and any union certified to represent a unit of WSU employees.

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9. Can employees in Bargaining Units be required to pay union dues or fees?

Yes, the law allows the unions and the state/state agencies to negotiate union security in RCW 41.80.100.

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10. If the Contract I am covered by requires the payment of dues, do I have a say through collective bargaining on the amount of union dues and agency/representation fees I must pay?

No. Each union determines the amount of dues and fees, and can inform employees about their current dues structure. Inquiries about union dues and fee structures should be directed to the union.

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11. How long does it take to negotiate a labor contract?

There is no way to predict this. Some Contracts have been negotiated in a matter of days while others have taken several months to complete. In some cases, negotiations have taken more than a year.

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12. Who pays for negotiations?

WSU pays for WSU expenses, and the union pays for union expenses.

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13. What happens if WSU and a union cannot reach an agreement on their own?

If the parties cannot reach agreement, state law provides the ability for parties to request Contract mediation from the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).

Contract mediation is an extension of the parties’ duty to negotiate a Contract concerning a Bargaining Unit’s wages, hours and working conditions. When public employers and employees’ representatives are unable to agree on the terms of a written contract establishing the wages, hours and working conditions of Bargaining Unit employees, PERC provides mediation to help the parties reach an agreement.

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14. What is the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC)?

The PERC is an independent state agency responsible for resolving disputes involving most public employers and employees, and the unions that represent those employees. For more information on PERC visit their website at http://www.perc.wa.gov/

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15. What happens when negotiations for a Contract are complete between WSU and a union?

If an agreement is reached in collective bargaining negotiations between WSU and the union for a group of employees, it is called a Tentative Agreement or T.A. because it is not put into effect until each side has ratified (or voted to approve) it.

The Regents of the Washington State University ratify for WSU and union members vote to ratify for the union.

Each union has its own constitution, or rules that establish who is eligible to vote on the ratification of a Contract. Inquiries regarding the ability to participate in the ratification of a Contract are to be directed to the representing union.

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16. What happens after the Contract is ratified by WSU and the union?

Once the Contract has been ratified and signed by both WSU and the union, they are sent to the Office of Financial Management at the State.

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17. What happens after the Contract is submitted to the State?

Once the Contracts have been submitted to the Office of Financial Management at the State, the Governors office reviews them to determine if they are financially feasible and if they will be included in the Governors proposed budget to the Legislature.  If the Legislature chooses to fund the Contracts, the provisions will be implemented July 1.

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18. What happens if the Contract submitted to the State is not funded?

If the Legislature does not fund the Contracts, WSU and the union will return to the table to re-negotiate.

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19. Where can I find a copy of my Contract?

Electronic copies of the Contracts are available on this website. In addition, if you want a printed copy it is to be requested from your exclusive bargaining representative.

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20. Who do I contact if I have questions or need assistance?

If you have additional or specific questions not addressed above, you may contact:

WSU Contacts
Kendra Wilkins-Fontenot
Labor Relations Officer
(509) 335-4521
kfonten@wsu.edu

Joel Peterson
Human Resources Assistant
(509) 335-9421
joel.peterson@wsu.edu

Human Resources Consultant assigned to your area

Union Contacts

Public School Employees of Washington (PSE) Union Representatives
Washington State Employees of Washington (WFSE) Union Representatives
WSU Police Guild (Police Guild) Union Representatives

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Washington State University