Lambert proposes changes to county labor policy

In response to continuing challenge with the King County budget, Metropolitan King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert is calling for policies that prioritize cost savings for labor, the largest expense category in King County’s budget.

“Currently, our labor contracts are for terms up to six years, which results in county employees receiving raises during economic recessions when most citizens are forced to cut back,” said Lambert. “With more than 80 percent of King County’s labor force represented by unions, it is important to build flexibility and responsiveness into our labor contracts.

The legislation adds three requirements for King County’s labor bargaining authority, which is vested in the Executive’s Office by the King County Charter, the county’s constitution:

Current policy requires a 2-percent minimum annual cost-of-living adjustment, regardless of whether the Consumer Price Index rises by that much. The proposed policy change lowers the minimum to zero percent while maintaining the maximum at the current 6 percent.

The motion requires new labor contracts to include a reopener clause in the event that county revenues are projected to remain flat or to decline in the next calendar year.

The proposal also outlines broader labor expenditure savings strategies during a recession, to include no cost-of-living adjustment, increased employee contributions for health care benefits, no step increases, reductions in wages and salaries, and unpaid furlough days.

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