We didn’t want to do it, but we had no choice.
Under Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) rules, a union wishing to object to the way a union election was conducted has seven days after the end of the election to file its objections with PERC.
After giving it serious thought, on Tuesday, WA INTERPRETERS filed a formal complaint with PERC objecting to several aspects of the recent L&I interpreter union election (the full complaint is available at the bottom of this post).
What are the objections?
Our objections fall into three main categories.
First, we pointed out, as we have before, that neither WFSE nor Interpreters United meet the legal criteria to represent L&I interpreters (no one contests that WA INTERPRETERS qualifies). We warned interpreters prior to the election that this was the case but that PERC wouldn’t address it until after the election.
Second, we pointed out three significant flaws and irregularities in the way PERC ran the election, including even the way both unions appeared on the ballots.
Finally, we explained how eight different claims made repeatedly by WFSE during the campaign were false and/or misrepresented PERC rules and procedures.
And we backed it all up with evidence. Lots of evidence (posted below).
Why did we file the objections?
Choosing a union is a big deal. As we’ve all learned by now, forming or changing unions isn’t easy. It’s quite possible that whichever union is eventually certified will represent L&I interpreters for decades, or even longer. And, for good or bad, the union will play a huge role in our lives and industry. He have to get this right.
And especially in a competitive election like this, there shouldn’t be any room for cheating, lies, or administrative mistakes. There’s just too much at stake.
What happens next?
WFSE and L&I have until Friday September 16th to respond to our objections. After that, PERC will evaluate the arguments and decide how to proceed.
PERC could agree that WFSE can’t legally be certified. It could also dismiss our objections and let the election results stand, conduct a hearing to investigate our objections further, order another election, or do something else entirely.
While we’re quite confident that our objections are significant enough to warrant serious consideration from PERC, there’s just no telling how long the process will take or what the outcome will be.
What does this mean for collective bargaining with the state?
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that either union will be certified in time to bargain a contract with the state by October 1 that addresses economic matters. While the eventual union can still begin bargaining with the state after October 1, bargaining over issues that cost the state money will likely have to wait until 2024.
This isn’t what any of us wanted. We’re interpreters, too, after all. But the moment WFSE became involved, it was probably inevitable.
Nobody has worked harder than WA INTERPRETERS to secure a union vote for L&I interpreters. We were the first to file our union petition with PERC back in November 2020 — WFSE was added later.
When PERC determined in May of 2021 that we had enough support to trigger an election, WFSE disputed the determination and tried to get the whole petition thrown out. After that failed, WFSE filed an unfounded unfair labor practice complaint and, over our objections, demanded that the election be put on hold until it was resolved (it was ultimately dismissed)—five months later.
Without WFSE’s delay tactics, it’s almost certain we would have had a union certified with plenty of time to bargain with the state. But here we are.
Stay tuned for further updates as we know more.