EDITORIAL | Murray's media critique falls flat

Late last week, Mayor Ed Murray released a statement expressing his disappointment that the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) rejected the city’s contract proposal.

In theory, the best course of action would be to say that the result meant both sides had to go back to the drawing board to find a compromise that suited both parties.

That’s not exactly what happened, though.

While the Mayor went through the key points of the proposal, calling it “the greatest reclamation of management rights this City has ever seen,” and noting the accountability reforms that were included in the contract, the blame for the contract’s rejection was seemingly put on an odd scapegoat.

“Unfortunately, this great progress was undermined during the ratification process when the management documents were leaked to the press,” Murray said in a statement.

That’s a wholly unnecessary swipe at an entity with the least agency in the negotiations.

It’s a stretch — to say the least — that reporting on the contract negotiations is ultimately what derailed the most recent proposal. Obviously, there must be a disconnect between the city, and the police department for SPOG members to vote so overwhelmingly against the deal (84 percent casting no votes). That’s not on the media.

But that brings up another question. Why, exactly, should the public be kept out of the loop on these negotiations? The taxpayers are, of course, the ones who elected you, Mayor Murray, and are paying the salaries of every officer on the Seattle Police Department force.

Murray said the leak of management documents was a “shocking violation of a core labor principle about collective bargaining that threatens the direct relationship between the union and its members, which is why the City is investigating.

“Confidentiality is a promise and a key component of labor negotiations to ensure that labor and management maintain a positive and respectful relationship built on trust,” he said. “Breaching that promise undermines that trust.”

By state law, these negotiations can be confidential, as can all labor negotiations with public sector unions, but especially in this instance, just because they can be does not mean they should. According to meeting notes acquired by The Stranger through a public records request, there was near unanimity between the Department of Justice, Director of the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), the OPA Auditor, the Community Police Commission (CPC), and the OPA Review Board that the collective bargaining process should be public. Most of the state’s newspapers have also come out against the secrecy that these public labor negotiations are shrouded in.

Frankly, neither the mayor nor SPOG has made a compelling argument that these discussions should continue behind closed doors.

If the finger should be pointed anywhere as to why these negotiations have stalled, it should be squarely at the parties involved, not an outside entity that has needlessly been locked out of the process.