Collaboration in Civic Spheres

With Tax Vote Looming, King County Looking To Labor Unions To Forgo Planned Salary Hikes

by Matt Rosenberg August 17th, 2010

Facing a $60 million 2011 deficit in its general fund, and with a .2 percent sales tax hike coming before voters in November, King County is trying to get its labor force to forgo cost-of-living (COLA) salary hikes of two to six percent that have been a mainstay in previous collective bargaining agreements. Yesterday, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the leader of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees (WSCCC), Chris Dugovich, announced that union’s King County unit would skip its COLA hike for 2011, saving the county $500,000 to $600,000. As the Seattle Times reports, if all 63 of the county’s 73 employee bargaining units that have expiring COLA provisions were to forgo any COLA hikes in 2011, the county could save $9.4 million, almost one-sixth of the general fund deficit. The general fund is a collection of so-called “discretionary” funds, including law enforcement and criminal justice, which comprises about 12.5 percent of the total county budget; the rest is in so-called “dedicated funds” which are mainly paid for by user fees, special tax levies and other dedicated revenues. (More: King County Budget Basics).

The WSCCC’s King County bargaining unit represents juvenile court supervisors and counselors, custodians and hazardous waste workers. Members will actually vote on August 27 whether to forego their 2011 COLA wage hike.

Seattle Times editorial and opinion column writer Joni Balter in a blog post today, writes:

The trend toward no COLAS is what has to happen in the new – read, lousy – economy.

As the Daily Weekly blog of the Seattle Weekly notes, a big catch in Constantine’s quest would be the 4,000-plus-member Amalgamated Transit Union, representing some 2,800 Metro bus drivers and other Metro personnel. So too are the King County Sheriff’s Police, who as Constantine recently told Burien city officials, are so far resisting his entreaties to consider giving back their negotiated COLA for the upcoming year. The Highline Times reported:

Currently Burien contracts with King County for police services. (Burien City Manager Mike) Martin said he felt the City could save a good amount of money by bringing the services in house. He said the City was going to be unable to keep up with the Sheriff’s yearly five percent cost of living increase. Constantine said he had talked with the King County Sheriff’s Guild about negotiating their contracts and the Guild was uninterested.

Because of the increasing cost of county police services, Burien is beginning to explore the possibility of forming its own sub-regional police force with several neighboring towns, the B-Town Blog reports.

Here are King County’s labor contracts.

The King County general fund deficit and fall sales tax vote will be at the core of our Countywide Community Forums (CCF) Round Six series of small group conversations and Opinionnaire survey-taking by citizen volunteers, which will run from September 11 to October 17. Here is an overview of our Round 5 effort, on customer service, public trust and public engagement in King County. CCF is a public engagement program conducted in tandem with King County government through the County Auditor’s Office, but privately underwritten, mainly by the Spady Family of Dick’s Drive-Ins in Seattle. We are re-vamping our Web site now. In early September, please come to and register as a citizen councilor so that we can provide you with information on how to participate, either at a small group gathering in your community, or online-only.

3 Responses to “With Tax Vote Looming, King County Looking To Labor Unions To Forgo Planned Salary Hikes”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, said: $9.4 mil of the $60 mil #KingCounty budget deficit could be addressed through negotiations with labor unions [...]

  2. Jeff Welch says:

    Your article says “the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing some 4,000-plus Metro bus drivers and other Metro personnel”. While ATU 587 has just over 4,000 members, only 2800 are transit operators. The rest are vehicle maintenance workers, first line supervisors, custodial staff, customer service staff and other support personnel. Metro does not have “4,000 plus bus drivers.

  3. Thank you for the clarification, Jeff. I’ve edited the language to make those particulars more clear. I appreciate your response.