Is More Collective Bargaining Transparency Wise? – Part 2

Recently, I wrote about Pennsylvania Senate Bill 645, which would create the “Public Employer Collective Bargaining Transparency Act.” The bill would require that collective bargaining agreements be made public in advance of their adoption, and I had suggested that although the intentions might be noble the law actually might be counterproductive.

I also mentioned that the bill had one other goal. This second new requirement would be to make clear that certain records relating to bargaining would be subject to disclosure under the Right to Know Law. Specifically, the law would clarify that the draft collective bargaining agreement is subject to disclosure once it is advertised as being ready for adoption. More troubling, though, is the requirement that the public employer would need to disclose “any documents that are presented by a public employer or received by a public employer from an employee organization, in the course of collective bargaining.”

Once again, though, this could create more problems than it solves. Bargaining sometimes requires candid and private communication, and that type of communication can be stifled when one party or another hesitates based on the fear that that their work product would or could be viewed later by parties for whom it was not intended.

The bill’s goal – creating accountability to collective bargaining – is noble. At the end of the day, though, local elected officials ARE accountable for the decisions they make with respect to collective bargaining agreements, just as with any other decisions they make involving public money and public trust. If the public disapproves of the way elected officials are handling bargaining, they can replace them with new elected officials.

At the state level, of course, the process is different. State contracts are negotiated by the Governor, the executive, rather that by the legislature. At least one proponent of the bill, the Commonwealth Foundation, correctly notes that the bill would would allow legislative input and oversight that currently is lacking at the state level. A better solution, though, would be to require legislative input by, for example, requiring a legislative ratification of state collective bargaining agreements.

At this point, the bill is still in committee in the state House, but we will keep an eye on it to see what, if any, changes public employers can expect.

Posted by / June 9, 2015 / 0 Comments
Posted in
Labor and Employment Law, Municipal Law, School Law
Patrick Fanelli

Patrick Fanelli

Mr. Fanelli is a founding partner of Fanelli Willett Law Offices, one of Blair County's newest law firms. Patrick focuses his practice on helping public and private employers navigate the increasingly regulated landscape of labor and employment law, while also serving as a respected school lawyer on behalf of various Pennsylvania school districts and other public entities, which turn to him for assistance in the collective bargaining process or as a general solicitor. Read More about Attorney Fanelli

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