Labor petitions get go-ahead from auditor

Susan Shotthafer signs two petitions before handing them to Karen Kuznek-Reese, Sequim city clerk, on Monday, July 28. The petitions oppose mandatory union fees for 48 city staff and support  labor negotiations open to the public.   - Sequim Gazette photo by  Matthew Nash
Susan Shotthafer signs two petitions before handing them to Karen Kuznek-Reese, Sequim city clerk, on Monday, July 28. The petitions oppose mandatory union fees for 48 city staff and support labor negotiations open to the public.
— image credit: Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

After a second go-round, signatures for two propositions put forth by Susan Shotthafer were verified for a future election if Sequim city councilors don’t act on them first.

As of Aug. 8, the city has 20 days to review and submit ordinances for adoption or reject them and in turn see it go to a special election. It’s tentatively slated for discussion at the city council meeting on Aug. 25.

The first proposition, called “Collective Bargaining Transparency Act,” Shotthafer said, would mandate the city to notify employees of its bargaining unit and the public prior to meetings between the city and the bargaining unit. These meetings also would be open to the public.

The second proposition, “Collective Bargaining Protections Act,” Shotthafer said, provides collective bargaining protections by prohibiting inclusion of a union security clause, prohibits gifting of public funds for the benefit of City of Sequim unions and prohibits public work stoppages.

In negotiations

Susanne Connelly, Sequim human resources director, said the city is negotiating its union contracts now tentatively through September for city council approval in November.

The second proposition would apply to 48 union city positions: 12 police officers, four police sergeants and 32 non-commissioned group members.

One city employee, Steve Rose, signed the petition for the second proposition “Collective Bargaining Protections Act” but he wouldn’t comment on why he signed it and not the first proposition.

Shotthafer said she contacted Deputy Mayor Dennis Smith prior to gathering the petitions via e-mail if the city council would consider enacting the propositions.

Smith said he doesn’t remember talking to Shotthafer but his first thought was to ask what City Manager Steve Burkett asks city councilors, “What problem are we solving?”

“I didn’t know we had a problem and I didn’t know the public saw a problem,” Smith said. “It should be an interesting conversation at the next city council meeting.”

The City of Sequim’s Teamsters Local 589 representative declined to comment on the propositions.

Getting verification

Shotthafer, a resident living between Sequim and Port Angeles, submitted 800-plus signatures for her two propositions on July 28 to the city but Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand said that Shotthafer didn’t have enough signatures of residents within city limits.

For the first proposition, Rosand verified 611 of 819 names were residents of the city and the second proposition had 621 of 834 signatures living in the city.

For a petition to go forward, Shotthafer would need 641 signatures from city residents, which she submitted later and Rosand verified on Aug. 8 for the city.

Rosand certified 654 signatures for Proposition 1 and 661 signatures for Proposition 2. The city has approximately 4,275 registered voters.

Shotthafer said she anticipated some of her signatures came from people who didn’t know if they were in city limits so for the second submissions she only gathered signatures door to door.

Rosand said for the propositions to appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, the city must have submitted resolutions by Aug. 5.

“If they turned in a resolution to me now, they could not put it on the November election,” Rodsand said. “It’s up to the City of Sequim if they want to do a special election. The soonest would be a Feb. 10 special election with a Dec. 26 deadline.”

Shotthafer said she’s uncertain of the August deadline because she’s read information from the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington that the city has 10 days to act and by Sept. 1 for it to appear on the November ballot.

“The sooner the better,” Shotthafer said about getting the propositions on a ballot.

“We want to get this accountability and transparency done and give employees a choice. Their contract with the unions ends at the end of December and from our perspective we want to have this resolved before they begin negotiating a new contract.”

A prop first

The propositions are the first for Shotthafer, a retired teacher, in Washington. She said she was involved in initiatives elsewhere including as one of the first signature gatherers for Proposition 13 in California, also known as the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation.

While Shotthafer said she doesn’t live in the city, she wanted to start with the propositions in a smaller area first.

“We wanted to have the experience of doing it on a smaller scale,” she said. “I think whenever we lose a freedom, it affects all of us. Even though I’m not in the city it’s a freedom for all the people. Whether I live in the city or not, it affects all of us.”


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