Police Union Rejects New Contract with City

The secretly negotiated contract was a mixed bag, in terms of reform.

Seattle’s police union members have voted down a contract its leaders negotiated with the city. The rejection was expected: recently resigned union president Ron Smith told us earlier this month that the contract “most likely will be voted down due to the City’s breach of confidentiality [via the Stranger] and a few other things.”

Mayor Ed Murray responded to news of the vote yesterday with a statement saying he is “disappointed.”

“We negotiated the greatest reclamation of management rights this City has ever seen, including expanded authority for the chief regarding transfers, rotations, promotions and the civilianization of significant positions,” the mayor said. “The contract also [would have] affirm[ed] accountability reforms we and the community have sought for months.” In the statement, Murray doubled down on his position that police union contract negotiations should be secret, just like any other union negotiation. “Unfortunately, this great progress was undermined during the ratification process when the management documents were leaked to the press,” he said. “This was a shocking violation of a core labor principle about collective bargaining that threatens the direct relationship between the union and its members.”

Police reform advocates, such as the Public Defender Association’s Lisa Daugaard, have called for the contract negotiations to be public.

Seattle councilmember Tim Burgess (citywide) said in his own statement that he is also disappointed by the vote. “The City negotiated with SPOG in good faith,” he said. “We attempted to accommodate many of the union’s requests without weakening our essential accountability or management proposals. It’s disappointing to reach agreement with the SPOG negotiating team only to have their membership reject the deal so resoundingly.”

A majority of the nine city councilmembers, including Burgess, are on the city’s secret negotiating team. As we’ve previously reported, because of “good faith” bargaining rules, if those five councilmembers accede to a new police union contract during secret negotiations, they may be legally obliged to vote in favor of the contract during public review in full council—even if constituent feedback has convinced them that they want to vote no.

When we broke this story, councilmembers (other than M. Lorena González) refused to speak to us about this, citing confidential bargaining rules. Since the contract just fell through, we’ll bug them again today about whether they’d be locked-in to a police union contract that made its way through secret negotiations, and update this post if we learn more.