King County approves bargaining agreement with 60 unions

Employees will receive wage increases and $500 bonus.

A bargaining agreement between more than 24 unions and King County was approved at Monday’s county council meeting, ensuring much of county’s workforce is operating under current terms through 2020.

The agreement was negotiated between representatives of the King County Executive’s office and the King County Coalition of Unions, which represents employees working in detention, law enforcement, public defense, the prosecutor’s office, public health, Metro, IT and parks, among others. In total, 61 collective bargaining agreements covering more than 5,500 employees across 17 agencies were approved.

As part of the agreement, all employees represented by the agreement will receive a general wage increase of 4 percent, which took effect at the beginning of 2019, and another 3 percent raise next year.

In addition, all employees will receive a $500 one-time payment. In total, the county will be paying nearly $50 million as part of the agreements, around $5.4 million over what was originally estimated. While the package was approved, King County Council member Kathy Lambert said she was concerned about the increased cost.

“I think that’s a lot of money. I have concerns about the $500 signing bonus or being their bonus,” she said at the meeting.

Employees with a bachelor’s degree will additionally receive a 2 percent salary increase, and those with a master’s degree will receive a 4 percent increase. Wages for county employees are supposed to be tied to wages in the private sector, and the county conducts studies every two years to ensure they are, Lambert said. County executive Dow Constantine’s office issued a statement to the Reporter saying the agreement built on foundations established in the 2015-2016 total compensation agreement and the wage increases are consistent with cost of living projections in Puget Sound.

In total, King County has more than 100 labor organizations, and having a master labor agreement helps make bargaining more efficient, Lambert said.

“I’m just glad that they are doing this kind of agreement. Our labor people are very fair and even-handed. The focus that I am really impressed with is the focus on safety,” she said.

A statement sent to the Reporter from the executive’s office said they appreciated the relationship between the county and bargaining unions and that they believed “these agreements help us deliver the best customer service to the people of this region.”

Also included in the agreement was an agreement to create a task force to study options for child care benefit programs such as vouchers. The task force would consist of labor representatives and King County representatives. The report is due back by the end of 2019.

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