The Stranger and Seattle Weekly are out with their endorsements. Generally, I think they're fine, even if I don't agree with all of them. Despite what people say, the folks behind these are thoughtful and intelligent local journalists who do their research. Yes, the Stranger makes jokes about the marijuana, and sure the Seattle Weekly's editor looks like he smokes a lot of the marijuana (fun fact: he doesn't), but the two editorial boards aren't idiots. (Although, both are touting the 25% number without actually, you know, providing a definition of what "affordable" means when we're talking 25% MHA. The 15 regular readers here know how annoyed I get when numbers without definitions like this are perpetuated).
Of course, as you read their endorsements, you'll see both endorsed Jon Grant. As noted in my Ballot Guide, I have concerns about Jon Grant and how he historically treats women and people of color. Another gem from the Office of Civil Rights complaint stemming from his tenure as ED of the Tenants' Union includes grievances and demands from staff, which included a demand that he "step down" due to his refusal to actually improve his behavior as a supervisor, particularly toward women and people of color (both the Stranger and the Weekly have these records). What we (as white dudes) do with our white privilege says a lot, and if Seattle Weekly and the Stranger want to look the other way at people who perpetuate racism and sexism through their actions, that is entirely their decision.
But there is a theme that the two papers share. It seems that a sticking point for both is whether negotiations between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officers' Guild (SPOG) should be open to the public. At the risk of being characterized as a SPOG tool - I don't think they should be, and the push for that is an extremely dangerous path to start down.
SPOG sucks. 100% is awful. In 2015, neither Rob Johnson or I sought their support, because they are just the worst. Police in Seattle have a long history of being racist af. They should be disarmed, and there must be greater accountability and oversight of the department. As a rule, I believe that Labor must look out for the good of the community as a whole. That's how we got weekends, 40 hour work weeks, the end of child labor, and minimum wage and sick leave requirements. SPOG sucks at most of this. They have shown that they care more about themselves and protecting shitty cops that protecting and serving our communities. SPOG is absolutely terrible.
But Labor negotiations - that is an issue that is separate from what goes into those contracts. Having sat at the bargaining table on behalf of workers, as a member of UFCW 1001, I can attest that it is an intense process where issues of pay, continuing education, vacation staggering, types of schedules, workplace safety, benefits, retirement, etc. etc. etc. are hashed out. When I did it, we were in negotiations for something like 8 months. I've seen some contract negotiations extend for years. As private sector workers, we did have the threat to hold over our employer of a strike, and were ready to seek authorization if that was the direction we were poised to go.
Law enforcement and fire departments are not allowed to go on strike. (In theory, teachers aren't, either, but teacher strikes are typically viewed differently - they're not public safety officials, after all). So time is on the side of the employer. But I'll come back to this.
The concern that I hold regarding opening up negotiations is: where do we stop? Should the Fire Fighter negotiations also be open? Or what about Parks employees? The GOP loves this idea as applied to State Employee contracts - so if we open up contract negotiations to the public for SPOG, does that mean Seattle is ostensibly supporting it for all public sector unions?
I get it - the Stranger and Seattle Weekly are not union shops. The Stranger even goes so far as to say we don't need more Labor folks on the Seattle Port Commission (last I checked, we haven't had a rank-and-file Union member on the Port Commission in...well, I don't know the last time we did) EDIT: This is not to say that I disagree with their endorsement in this Port race - I'm still undecided and there are many great candidates. But the broader point is the question about whether public sector unions should have labor negotiations in public And as one SECB member has pointed out - certain parts of Labor can be shitty on the environment (like, really really shitty) Some are really great. More should be great. So maybe they do support opening up contract negotiations and working to dismantle organized labor for government employees. I'll have to ask SECB members next time I see them. EDIT: An SECB member confirmed that the support of public sector union negotiations being public should be predicated on whether members of that union carry firearms, so not all public sector unions.
But I sure as hell don't. And with the ability to wait out the clock without providing pay raises or other changes, the City is in a better position over SPOG (if the City is willing to use it). The problem isn't that negotiations are "behind closed doors," the problem is a lack of will to stand up to SPOG during those negotiations. The litmus shouldn't be the beginning stages of dismantling public sector unions, rather who is going to work to serve on the right committees and take a firm stance during contract negotiations.
Should negotiations with public safety unions include members from the Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and representatives from community and oversight groups? I think that is very reasonable, if not only to ensure those last two are providing meaningful input to the first two on what needs to be in the contract for the safety of our communities.
But taking steps that give anti-Labor GOP Legislators ammo to use against organized workers is not something I'm interested in. So on this, I will have to disagree with the good folks at the Stranger and Seattle Weekly as a tie breaker.