Snohomish County, Department of Corrections

And

Teamsters Local Union No. 763

Interest Arbitration

Arbitrator:      Gary L. Axon

Date Issued:   07/30/1996

 

 

Arbitrator:         Axon; Gary L.

Case #:              11976-I-95-00260

Employer:          Snohomish County

Union:                Teamsters Local Union No. 763

Date Issued:      07/30/1996

 

 

 

            IN THE MATTER OF                                              )

                                                                                                )

            INTEREST ARBITRATION                                   )                       PERC CASE 11976-1-95-260

                                                                                                )

            BETWEEN                                                                 )                       ARBITRATOR'S AWARD

                                                                                                )

            TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 763,               )           1996 INTEREST ARBITRATION

                                                                                                )

                                                            Union,                         )

            and                                                                              )

            SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON,           )

            DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS,                   )

                                                            County.                       )          

                                   

HEARING SITE:                                                                  County Administrative Building

                                                                                                Everett, Washington

 

HEARING DATES:                                                              May 25, 26, 1996

 

POST-HEARING BRIEFS DUE:                                        Postmarked May 28, 1996

 

RECORD CLOSED ON RECEIPT OF BRIEFS:              May 31, 1996

 

REPRESENTING THE UNION:                                         Michael R. McCarthy

                                                                                                Davies Roberts and Reid

                                                                                                Suite 550

                                                                                                101 Elliott Avenue West

                                                                                                Seattle, WA 98119

 

REPRESENTING THE COUNTY:                                     Thomas E. Platt

                                                                                                Perkins Cole

                                                                                                40th Floor

                                                                                                1201 Third Avenue

                                                                                                Seattle, WA 98101-3099

 

ARBITRATOR:                                                                    Gary L. Axon

                                                                                                1465 Pinecrest Terrace

                                                                                                Ashland, OR 97520

                                                                                                (541) 488-1573

 

                                                            TABLE OF CONTENTS

ISSUE                                                                                                 Page

 

Introduction                                                                                        2

1 - Wages                                                                                           6

2 - Pension                                                                                          40

           

I.          INTRODUCTION

 

            This case is an interest arbitration conducted pursuant

to the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act.  The parties to

this dispute are Teamsters Local 763  (hereinafter "Union") and

Snohomish County, Washington (hereinafter "County") . The Union and

the County are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement which

covered the period from January 1, 1992, through December 31, 1994.

The  parties  entered  into  negotiations  to  reach  a  successor

Agreement to the 1992-94 Collective Bargaining Agreement.   The

parties were successful in resolving most of the issues that

divided them in contract negotiations.  Three fundamental issues

were certified by the Public Employee Relations Coxnmission for

interest  arbitration.     The  issues  certified  for  interest

arbitration were wages, shift differential and pension. During the

course of the interest arbitration proceeding, the parties were

able to reach agreement on the shift differential issue.

 

            Snohomish County, Washington, stretches from Puget Sound

on the west to the crest of the Cascade Mountains on the east.

Skagit County is located immediately to the north, with King County

immediately to the south, and Kitsap and Island Counties to the

west.   The County is located on the I-5 corridor.   The County

serves a resident population of 525,600.  The largest city in the

County is Everett.  The County has approximately 2,083 employees.

 

            Snohomish County provides detention and correctional

services to all municipalities as well as unincorporated areas

within its boundaries.  All persons charged with serious crimes and

misdemeanor violations under the state code are booked and detained

at the County jail.  The arrestees sentenced to one year or less

are also by law housed at the County Correctional Facility for the

period of their sentence.  William Harper has served as Department

Director since 1982.  During 1995 the average daily population at

the correctional facilities was 548.   Over 16,000 persons were

booked and processed through the facilities during 1995.   The

majority of the persons were detained for four days or less.  In

1995 the average length of stay for all bookings was 12.3 days.

 

            The Corrections Department employs 195 staff.  The Union

represents 105 employees in the Corrections Department in the

classifications  of custody and corrections  officers  that are

subject to this interest arbitration.  Approximately 58 support

personnel,  5  corrections  supervisors,  10  corrections  support

supervisors and 45 sheriff's support personnel are also represented

by the Union.

 

            The hearing in this case took two days for the parties to

present a substantial amount of testimony,  and extensive and

comprehensive documentary evidence.  The parties were unable to

agree on the appropriate jurisdictions with which to compare

Snohomish County for the purpose of establishing thewage level for

the members of this bargaining unit.  A considerable amount of

hearing time was devoted to receiving evidence on the issue of

comparability.  The hearing was recorded by a court reporter and a

transcript was made available to the parties and the Arbitrator for

the purpose of preparing the post-hearing briefs and the Award.

 

Testimony of witnesses was taken under oath.  At the hearing the

parties  were  given  the  full  opportunity  to  present written

evidence, oral testimony and argument.  The parties provided the

Arbitrator with substantial written documentation in support of

their respective positions. Comprehensive and lengthy post-hearing

briefs were submitted to  the Arbitrator along with interest

arbitration awards previously issued by arbitrators in the state of

Washington.

 

            This Arbitrator carefully reviewed and evaluated all of

the evidence and argument submitted pursuant to the criteria

established by RCW 41.56.460.  This is the first year that interest

arbitration has been available to corrections officers.   RCW

41.56.030(7) (C) .  The approach of your Arbitrator in writing this

Award will be to summarize the major and most persuasive evidence

and argument presented by the parties on each issue.  After the

introduction of the issue and positions of the parties, I will then

state the basic findings and rationale which caused the Arbitrator

to make the award on the individual issue.

 

            The Arbitrator is directed by the statute to take into

consideration a number of standards or guidelines to assist in

making an Award to resolve this dispute.  The statutory factors to

be considered by the Arbitrator may be summarized as follows:

 

(a)        the  constitutional  and  statutory

            authority of the employer;

 

(b)        the stipulations of the parties;

 

(c)        the wages,  hours  and conditions  of

employment of like personnel of like employers

of  similar size on the west coast of the

United States;

 

(d)        the average consumer prices for goods and

services,  commonly  known  as  the  cost  of

living;

 

(e)        changes  in  any  of  the  foregoing

circumstances  during  the  pendency  of  the

proceedings; and

 

(f)        such other factors, not confined to the

foregoing, which are normally or traditionally

taken into consideration in the determination

of wages, hours and conditions of employment.

 

ISSUE 1 - WAGES

 

A.        BackGround

 

            The 1992-94 Collective Bargaining Agreement for custody

and corrections officers provides for a six-step salary schedule.

The final year of the 1992-94 contract provided a salary range as

follows:

 

CLASS            Step 1              Step 2              Step 3              Step 4             Step 5              Step 6

                        2283.25           2396.58           2516.17           2643.00           2776.42           2913.25

 

            The parties have agreed to retain the existing six-step

schedule for three years with agreed on cost of living wage

increases.   The parties agreed to adjust the salary schedule

effective January 1,  1995,  by 3.15% and an additional 2.88%

increase on January 1, 1996.  The third year increase would be

controlled by a CPI formula.  Effective January 1, 1997, the salary

schedule would be increased by an amount equal to 90% of the CPI-W.

 

            The agreed on adjustments for the first two years will

result in a salary schedule providing wages as follows:

 

CLASS            Step 1              Step 2              Step 3              Step 4              Step 5              Step 6

 

CO 1995         2355.17           2472.07           2595.43           2726.25           2863.88           3005.02

CO 1996         2423.00           2543.27           2670.18           2804.77           2946.36           3091.56

CO 1997         COLA             COLA             COLA             COLA             COLA             COLA

                                                             Jt. Ex.            9.

 

            The dispute before the Arbitrator on the wage issue is a

Union proposal to add another 5% increase to the agreed on wage

adjustment for both 1995 and 1996.  The County takes the position

the agreed on COThA adjustments establishes the appropriate levels

of compensation for the 1995-97 contract years.  The only remaining

issue for the Arbitrator is whether there will be further wage

adjustments for 1995 and 1996 in addition to the COLA.

 

B.        The Union

 

            The Union takes the position that Snohomish County

custody officers are entitled to a substantial wage increase in

addition to COLA increases.  According to the Union, after making

the statutorily required adjustments for cost of living, the data

from the comparable jurisdictions indicates a substantial increase

is necessary to "narrow the gap" between the under compensated

Snohomish County officers and their counterparts in the other

jurisdictions.  The Union submits its proposal for an additional 5%

raise for 1995 and 1996, in addition to the COLA adjustments is in

accord with the statutory standards.

 

            The Union asserts that even if the County's comparators

and methodology are adopted by the Arbitrator, the evidence shows

the custody officers are clearly entitled to a substantial raise.

In the view of the Union,  the statute expressly instructs an

arbitrator  to  take  "cost of  living"  into consideration when

formulating an award.   Arbitrators have traditionally adjusted

comparison studies to reflect different costs of living among the

comparison jurisdictions.  The Union and County are in substantial

agreement that the ACCRA Cost of Living Index provides a valid

basis  for  determining  differences  in  cost  of  living  among

Washington counties.   Un.  Exs.  16,  17.   When the Arbitrator

considers the cost of living data, he need not resolve all of the

parties methodological sub-disputes, because a substantial raise is

clearly  due  even  if  one  adopts  the  County's  comparison

jurisdictions and methodology.   The ACCRA Cost of Living Index

shows the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett Metropolitan Area having by far

the highest cost of living among the Washington cities.

 

            The ACCRA Cost of Living Index for the second quarter of

1995 shows the following composite cost of living comparisons:

 

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett 120.3

Spokane 105.9

Bellingham 103.2

Tacoma 102.6

Yakima 106.0

 

The Union cites Employer Exhibit 32, an exhibit adjusted for cost

of living differences, as further evidence Snohomish County has the

lowest paid corrections officers of any county in the state, after

the reguired adjustment for cost of living is calculated.  Employer

Exhibit 32 shows that Snohomish County officers lag fully 22%

behind Pierce County officers.

 

            Employer Exhibit 32 is extremely persuasive of the need

for a raise above COLA adjustments.  First, the Union asserts that

the Arbitrator must evaluate the County's economic exhibits by

keeping in mind they make no adjustments for differences in the

cost of living among the jurisdictions cited by the County.  Since

Snohomish County is part of a metropolitan area, it defies logic to

fail to take into account differences in the cost of living with

such communities as Yakima and Spokane.  Second, Employer Exhibit

4D assumes the County's position on every methodological dispute.

Even if the Arbitrator accepts the County's skewed data, their own

evidence still demonstrates a need to award custody officers a

substantial raise in addition to COLA increases.

 

            Turning to the factor of comparability, the Union submits

that Pierce County and King County are the most directly comparable

jurisdictions.  Pierce County is uniquely probative because it is

the County's southern twin.  Pierce County is a densely populated

part of the Tacoma-Seattle-Everett megalopolis centered around a

large second-tier city (Tacoma, Everett) .  Pierce and Snohomish

Counties play similar roles in the Seattle Metropolitan Area by

providing commuter employees to Seattle and at the same time act as

their own commercial centers about thirty miles away from downtown

Seattle.  Both counties sit astride I-5, the lifeline of Washington

State's most intense commercial activity.

 

            The Union next argues that King County is probative of

appropriate wage rates in Snohomish County.  King and Snohomish

Counties  are  large  sub-parts  of  the  Tacoma-Seattle-Everett

Metropolitan Area and are clearly regarded as part of the same

labor and economic market.  Further, they are part of the region's

new transit plan which proposes extending commuter rail and HOV

express lanes from Everett to south of Tacoma.  Un. Ex. 15.  The

Union reasons that from south of Tacoma to north of Everett,

Washington State is one uninterrupted stretch of densely populated

land making the placement of county lines on the map of little

relation to the reality of the economic and commercial activity.

 

            The Union cited three other counties which it believes

also provide useful guidance to setting the appropriate wage

schedule for corrections officers.   Clark County is similar to

Snohomish County in that it is part of a larger metropolitan

region.  In addition, it is located on an interstate corridor with

a larger city, Portland, and serves as a commuter bedroom community

for the larger city.  Because it is much smaller in size and has

substantially lower tax revenue, Clark County's officers should be

paid lower wages than their Snohomish County counterparts.  The

record reflects the opposite is true.

 

            Skagit County is adjacent to Snohomish County and sits

astride the 1-5 corridor.  The fact that Skagit County with its

total population of 91,000 is substantially smaller than Snohomish

County's 504,270 population is probative by itself.   The Union

submits that owing to the size differential,  Snohomish County

officers ought to make substantially more than Skagit County

corrections officers. The evidence before this Arbitrator reflects

the opposite is true.

 

            The third county which the Union believes is useful for

comparison purposes in this case is Thurston County.   For the

identical reasons discussed with respect to Skagit County, Thurston

County is seen as providing some guidance to setting the wages of

the members of this bargaining unit.  In sum, the Union argues that

King County and Pierce County are clearly the jurisdictions which

should be given the greater weight when determining the wages for

the members of this bargaining unit.

 

            The Union takes the position that the Arbitrator should

reject  the  additional  counties  advocated by  the  County  for

comparison purposes.  Yakima County is not a valid comparison for

Snohomish County, because its population and tax revenues do not

fall within the one-half to two times rule-of-thumb.  In addition,

Yakima County is not on the I-5 corridor or located in the Puget

Sound Area as part of a larger metropolitan region.  Yakima County

is located east of the Cascades with an economic foundation of

fruit orchards and hops  fields.   Snohomish,  King and Pierce

Counties have an economic foundation based on trade, shipping,

industry and high technology.

 

            The Arbitrator should also reject the County's reliance

on Kitsap County because it is not located on the I-5 corridor and

is not accessible to the Tacoma-Seattle-Everett Metropolitan Area

by any convenient route.  As the crow flies, Kitsap would appear to

be in geographic proximity to Snohomish County.  However, the Union

notes "custody officers are not crows."  The only valid reason for

considering Kitsap County would be because of its ferry boat

connection to downtown Seattle.   If Kitsap County should be

considered because of its mere relationship to Seattle, then the

Union's case for using King County as a comparator is strengthened

substantially by the County's choice of comparators.

 

            The Arbitrator should also reject the County's proposal

to include Spokane County as a basis for comparison.  While Spokane

County is in an appropriate population range, Spokane County should

not be included in the comparator group because it is located

outside the Seattle Metropolitan Area.  The counties located along

the I-5 corridor and in the Seattle Metropolitan Area constitute a

unique geographic and economic area in the state of Washington.  If

the Arbitrator decides to take Spokane County into consideration he

must remember to make the adjustment for differences in the cost of

living as previously discussed.

 

            The Union asserts that its comparison data is fair and

reasonable and shows a clear need for a substantial increase in

addition to COLA adjustments.  Union Exhibit 7 reveals as follows:

 

                        TEAMSTERS LOCAL NO. 763 AND

                        SNOHOMISH COUNTY CORRECTIONS

 

            TOP SALARY STEPS INDEXED TO SNOHOMISH COUNTY

                       

COUNTY                                TOP SALARY STEP SNOHOMISH COUNTY

KING                                                  $3601                                      123.6%

PIERCE                                              $3204                                      110.0%

SKAGIT                                             $3080                                      105.7%

THURSTON                                      $3028                                      104.0%

SNOHOMISH (1994)                        $2913                                      100.0%

CLARK (1994)                                   $2712                                     93.1%

 

All of the figures in the above exhibit are 1995 figures, except

where otherwise noted.

 

            Union  Exhibits  8,  9  and  10,  index  total  employee

compensation for the Union's comparison counties at the eight-year

and fifteen-year levels.  Union Exhibit 9 computed the base pay

plus premiums  for  a  fifteen-year  employee which revealed in

relevant part as follows:

 

TEAMSTERS LOCAL NO. 763 AND

SNOHOMISH COUNTY CORRECTIONS

 

COMPARISON OF BASE PAY PLUS PREMIUMS

COUNTY                                BASE PAY                 TOTAL

KING                                      $3601                          $4,207

PIERCE                                  $3204                          $3,605

THURSTON                          $3028                          $3,538

SKAGIT                                 $3080                          $3,526

CLARK (1994)                       $2712                          $3,432

SNOHOMISH (1994)            $2913                          $3,299

 

            The  Union  then  indexed  total  compensation paid  to

Snohomish County officers with the comparators in Union Exhibit 10.

The Union submits there is no basis for a 6.5% difference in

compensation between Snohomish and Pierce Counties, unadjusted for

cost of living.  Pierce County is the single-most comparable county

in the state of Washington and has a cost of living well below that

of Snohomish County.  Basic fairness demands that Snohomish County

officers be paid at a level equal to or greater than Pierce

County's corrections officers.  Similarly, there is no principled

basis for paying King County corrections officers fully 21% more

than Snohomish County officers.  Nor is there any valid reason for

three vastly smaller counties  (Thurston,  Skagit,  Clark)  to be

paying their corrections officers substantially more than Snohomish

County pays its officers.

 

            The Union submits its data is fair and reasonable and

designed to present an accurate picture of employee compensation

among the various jurisdictions.  The Union's choice of an eight-

year employee comparison is designed to compare "apples to apples"

by  permitting  sufficient  time  for  all  employees  in  all

jurisdictions to reach the top step of the wage scale.  The Union's

data makes modest and reasonable assumptions for the purpose of

making the calculations.

 

            Moreover, the Union's inclusion of health and welfare

premium payments is absolutely necessary to an accurate comparison

of employee compensation.  The County's position to exclude health

and welfare premiums should be rejected by the Arbitrator.  It is

well accepted that health and welfare premiums constitute a slice

of the total economic pie and should not be ignored because the

benefits are variable among the different jurisdictions.

 

            The Union avers that Snohomish County custody officers'

working conditions corroborate the need for a raise in addition to

COLA adjustments. The conditions of employment factor demonstrated

that Snohomish County jail is "punishingly" overcrowded, and that

overcrowding affects the custody officers  working conditions more

directly and dramatically than in any comparable jurisdiction.  The

jail opened in 1986 designed to hold a maximum 277 prisoners.  In

February 1996 the average daily population of the jail was 528

persons.  Un. Ex. 4.  There have been no material modifications to

the jail since 1986 to justify the doubling of the population.

 

            The Union next points out that Snohomish County is a

"direct supervision" facility that is unlike the typical jail where

corrections officers simply observe locked cell blocks from within

a secure officer station.  Snohomish County officers are directly

exposed to inmate contact which is exacerbated by the overcrowding.

The only jail facility offered by either side that is a direct

supervision facility is Spokane County.  According to the Union,

this  overcrowding  impairs  Snohomish County  custody officers'

working conditions because they are in direct contact with the

inmate on a "moment-to-moment" basis.

 

            The Arbitrator should reject the County's attempt to

minimize its  own situation by claiming that other jails are

likewise overcrowded.  The Arbitrator should find that Snohomish

County custody officers' working conditions justify additional

compensation because officers are directly exposed to dangerous

offenders who are themselves struggling to cope with overcrowded

conditions.

 

            Regarding the County's counterarguments to the Union

proposals,  the Arbitrator  should reject all of  the County's

arguments as unpersuasive.  First, the Arbitrator should reject the

County's claim that it is financially unable to provide the Union's

requested  raises  because  the  argument  was  never  made  in

negotiations.  By waiting until the arbitration hearing to offer a

financial inability to pay argument, the Union was deprived of the

ability to investigate the alleged financial difficulties.  Even

with this  late assertion of  financial inability to pay,  the

evidence showed the County is in a strong financial position and

has the ability to fund the Union's proposal.

 

            Second, the County's attack on the Consumer Price Index,

that it overestimates inflation is insufficiently supported to draw

the inference sought by the County.   The County relied on a

"political" study being used to slow the growth of entitlement

payments that are a function of the increases in the CPI.

 

            Third,  the County's historical data provided further

strong support for the Union 5 wage proposal.  Tabs 8 and 9 of

Employer Exhibit 4 demonstrates that the County has consistently

agreed to wage raises higher than the rate of inflation for

bargaining unit members.  In addition, the County has historically

provided greater wage increases to custody officers than to other

law enforcement employees in an effort to narrow the wage gap

between deputy sheriffs and corrections officers.  Likewise, the

County had sought to narrow the wage gap between King County and

Snohomish County corrections officers. Thus, the Arbitrator should

compel a bargain in compliance with the historical trends reflected

in the Employer Exhibits.

 

            For all of the above stated reasons the Arbitrator should

award the Union's proposal for an additional 5% increase in 1995

and an additional 5% increase in 1996 over the agreed upon COLA

adjustments.

 

C.        The County

 

            The County takes the position that the agreed upon cost

of living adjustments for the duration of this contract creates the

appropriate wage structure for the parties.  The evidence offered

by the Union failed to demonstrate that any additional wage

increases are justified under the statutory standards.  Therefore,

the Arbitrator should reject the Union's proposal for additional

wage increases for the duration of the three-year contract.

 

            The County begins by noting the Union's position in this

arbitration is, "At war with the fiscal and budgetary actions that

are being taken by the County."       Er. Ex. 4D.      The County has

adopted stringent measures to arrest the imbalance in revenue and

personnel cost growth projected by the County.      The County was

consistent  in  maintaining  this  position  during  the  1995

negotiations with its various unions.

 

            The parties have stipulated that effective January 1,

1995, a 3.15% cost of living wage increase should be applied to the

existing salary schedule.  The parties also agreed that effective

January 1, 1996, an additional 2.88% increase should be applied to

the salary schedule.  For 1997 the parties have agreed t6 a cost of

living adjustment based upon 90% of the CPI-W.   The agreed on

increases are in accord with the statutory factors which guide this

Arbitrator in formulating an award in this case.

 

            Turning to  the  factor of  comparability,  the County

selected six counties located within the state of Washington with

which to compare itself for determining wages for corrections

officers.           The County's selection procedure yielded the following:

 

            County                        Population

            Pierce                          660,200

            Spokane                      401,200

            Clark                           291, 000

            Kitsap                         220,600

            Yakima                       204, 100

            Thurston                     189,200

 

            The County utilized corrections officer assignments for

developing its comparison data.  The County identified counties of

similar size by adopting a 50% range factor.  The size of Snohomish

County is 525,600.  The range thus is 262,800 to 788,400 which

yielded the three Washington counties of Pierce, Spokane and Clark.

In order to expand the three Washington counties to reasonable

proportions  and  to balance  the overall  sample,  the counties

offering the closest population in comparison to Snohomish County

were added to the list.  This resulted in the use of the smaller

counties of Kitsap, Yakima and Thurston for comparison purposes.

 

            In sum, the County submits that its set of six Washington

counties represents a well balanced group both in population and

geographic distribution.   Thus,  the use of the six counties

identified by the County comports with the statutory mandates.

 

            Turning to the factor of cost of living,  the County

maintains the CPI has been averaging in the range of 2.5% to 3% for

the last couple of years.  Currently the CPI is at 2% with the

Seattle CPI-W at 2.7%.  Er. Ex. 4D, Att. 12.  According to the

County, the CPI overstates the increases in the cost of living by

1%.  Thus, the actual increase in consumer prices is only 2%.  The

County believes the Arbitrator should use the revised figure of 2%

for analyzing this factor.

 

            The corrections and custody officers in this unit have

been treated well when the CPI figures over the past ten years are

compared to wage increases for the members of this unit.  The CPI-W

for the Seattle-Tacoma Area has increased by 43.4% over the 1985-95

period.   However, during that same period the negotiated wage

increases for the County corrections and custody officers have

increased by 72.3%.  Therefore, the County submits the record does

not support any special wage adjustments to account for changes in

consumer prices.

 

            The  County asserts  that  the burden of proof  falls

squarely on the Union as the party seeking to change the status guo

to prove its proposals are justified under the statutory criteria.

The County characterized the Union's position as a bold attempt on

their part to utilize its first opportunity at interest arbitration

to gain special wage increases for the members of this bargaining

unit.  The difference between the County's cost based on its offer

and the Union's demands is about $500,000 for the 105 employees in

this bargaining unit.   Given the numerous financial challenges

facing the County, it would not be prudent or reasonable to award

the Union's proposal.

 

            No adjustments beyond the agreed on wage increases are

warranted.  The County's offer represents an increase to the County

of approximately 15.24% for the 105 bargaining unit members over

the term of the three-year Agreement.  The Union's demand would

produce more than a 25% increase in wages during that same period

at an added-cost of approximately $500,000.  Since the parties have

voluntarily agreed to each and every issue in bargaining, except

pension, the dispute before this Arbitrator is properly framed as

a "basic wage dispute."

 

            The County's offer seeks to maintain the historical

relationship among the comparable counties.  On the other hand, the

Union's proposal would have the County move out to 9.5% above the

average of the comparable counties.  The Union offered absolutely

no credible explanation for this dramatic change in the treatment

of corrections officers in relationship to the comparables.  The

Union should not be allowed to "unplug" itself frdm the history of

bargaining or to add King County which has never been used as a

comparable.

 

            Moreover,  the historical relationship between County

corrections officers and deputy sheriffs reveals that over the last

ten years the gap between the two groups of employees has narrowed

to 85%.  The County's offer in this interest arbitration proceeding

for 1995 will maintain the gap at 84.9%.  The Union's demand for an

additional  5% would reduce the gap between what is paid to

corrections officers and deputy sheriffs to 90%.  Reducing the gap

to 90% would put it at a level never achieved by the custody

officers through free and open collective bargaining.  The wage

relationship between custody officers and deputy sheriffs in the

comparison counties is supported by the County's proposal.  The

County's  offer  maintains  the  differential  of  85%  which  is

remarkably close to the average in the other counties of 84%.

 

            The County favors a direct wages to wages comparison in

this case.  The Union favors a net hourly compensation comparison

for an eight-year or fifteen-year officer with an A.A. degree.  In

the view of the County, when the only compensation issue before the

Arbitrator is wages, the addition of premium pays and other forms

of compensation only serves to confuse the issue. While the County

could have utilized a "net pay" analysis, the County submits an

"apples to apples" wage comparison provides a realistic method to

assess the wages paid among the comparable jurisdictions.

 

            Turning to internal comparability, the County avers that

its proposal is equitable and consistent with salary increases

negotiated with other labor unions representing County employees.

For 1995 alone, the Union demands a salary increase well over twice

as great as other County groups who settled for 3.15%  The record

evidence also shows that the County corrections officers have been

generously compensated over the past decade.  The top-step pay for

a corrections officer has increased by 72.3% while the range for

other County employees for that same period was at 43% at the low

end and 69% at the top end.  Adoption of the County's position will

maintain the traditional wage gap of 85.1% between a corrections

officer and a deputy sheriff.

 

            The County's wage proposal is reasonable in light of

local market wage increases.  The average wage increase received by

city of Everett bargaining units was 3.2% in 1995.   Snohomish

County PUD bargaining units received a 3% wage increase for 1995.

Scott Paper bargaining groups received a 3% increase for 1995.

Boeing settled with its unions for a 1.5% increase on their base

wage plus a 5% lump sum payment, which did not go into the base.

Everett School District bargaining unints settled for a 4% wage

increase for the 1995-96 period, which averages out to 2% per year.

 

            The County next argues that the 1995 and 1996 salary

schedules will also be within the norm for corrections Qfficers in

the comparable counties.  The schedule proposed by the Union is

not   The County's proposed 1995 top-step salary of $3,005 places

the County in the number three position among the six Washington

comparators.  The County's proposed salary of $3,005 is 4.2% above

the average top salary for the comparator group.   The County's

proposal is right on the mark and should not in any manner be

viewed as "low balling" or "posturing" for the purpose of this

interest arbitration.

 

            It is also the County's position that its offer is

supported by other traditional factors used in establishing a wage

schedule.  The evidence shows the work force has been stable and

there has been no turnover problems in this bargaining unit.  In

addition,  the  County has  had no  trouble  in attracting good

applicants from the local area for corrections officer positions.

The evidence also demonstrated that the workload for corrections

officers is moderate by industry standards.   The average daily

population in the jail during 1995 remained stable.  The ratio of

custody/corrections officers to prisoners in thegroup of counties

under consideration by the Arbitrator was 1:6 during the calendar

year 1995.  The County had slightly greater staffing per capita at

1:5.

 

            The County takes the position that working conditions are

safer in the Snohomish County facility by virtue of the fact it is

a direct supervision facility. Director Harper testified that work

for a corrections officer in a direct supervision facility is much

safer than for officers in an "indirect" supervision facility.

During 1995 there were approximately 16,000 individuals processed

at the County jail.  During that period, there were four custody

officers assaulted.  There have been no riots or similar serious

disturbances since the implementation of the direct supervision

facility.   Contrary to the Union's unsupported claims about a

crowded jail and dangers to custody officers, the evidence in the

record is at odds with the picture sought to be portrayed by the

Union witnesses.

 

            Turning to the Union's argument regarding comparators,

the County submits the selection process utilized by the Union was

fatally flawed in five respects.  First, the Union seeks to rewrite

the statute based on ill defined notions of geography.   The

Washington statute clearly refers to "comparable communities" of

"similar size."  The Union's attempt to suggest that King County

and Snohomish County are part and parcel of an I-5 megalopolis is

simply not supported by the statute.

 

            Second,  the Union used only a few I-5 counties  in

selecting its comparators.  The Union's insistence on narrowing its

comparables to the I-5 corroder incorrectly ignores any part of

Washington east of the Cascade mountains.  Third, the huge gap in

size from the Union's comparables and the County's, argues against

any claim the jurisdictions selected are of similar size.

 

            Fourth,  the Union's  comparators offer a moving and

shrinking target because prior to the arbitration hearing Spokane

was used as a comparable.  At the arbitration hearing, the Union

added Skagit County and deleted Spokane County from its list of

comparators.  Spokane County is significantly closer in size to

Snohomish County than either Skagit or Thurston Counties.   The

Union's moving target approach to comparators should be rejected by

the Arbitrator.

 

            Fifth, the Union's overall logic fails in both reasoning

and presentation of the evidence.  The Union's own exhibits prove

that King and Skagit Counties are not comparable under the statute

because of the size differences.   The Union's declaration that

there is ample evidence for use of factors other than size was

without factual support.  Thus,. the comparators used by the County

should be the only comparators used in deciding this case.

 

            The County next challenges the Union's total compensation

analysis offered by Union witness Mark Endresen.  Un. Exs. 8-10.

The County objects to the broad and slippery commingling of wages

and benefits because the entire economic package is not before the

Arbitrator.   The Union's methodology does not lend itself to

"apples  to apples"  comparison critical to making an accurate

assessment of total compensation.   Thus,  the Arbitrator should

conclude that it is inappropriate to mix benefits and wages when

reviewing comparators for purposes of a wage increase.

 

            The Arbitrator should also reject the patently misleading

indexing to make comparisons because it masks clear and otherwise

unmistakable relationships.  When combined with the inclusion of

King County into the group of comparators, the King County salary

dominates the study.  If the average top step of the four Union

comparators is calculated without King County,  the figure is

$3,006.  The $3,006 number is $1 per month greater than $3,005 per

month agreed to by the parties for 1995.

 

            The County next argues the Union's figures are unreliable

because they omitted certain data.  For example, Union Exhibit 6

does not show "total taxes" as claimed.  The Union's use of the

corrections officer with fifteen years of service is misplaced

because it is not representative of a typical corrections officer.

The corrections officer with fifteen years of service represents a

small segment of the bargaining unit so as to be of little or no

use to the Arbitrator when developing an award.  The Union's line

items presented in Union Exhibits 8, 9 and 10 are suspect because

they include elements of compensation that are not at issue in this

case.  Absent from the Union's  "total compensation" spreadsheet is

any reference to hours of work.  The net hourly wage approach was

presented during bargaining but abandoned at arbitration.   The

Union's model purports to be a "total compensation package" but on

close inspection the study fails to include several big ticket

items enjoyed by County corrections officers.

 

            The concluding argument of the County is that the Union's

proposal is extraordinarily costly.  With two 5% increases the

monthly salary of a top-step corrections officer would increase

from $2,913 per month in 1994 to $3,150 to $3,399 per month in

1996.  This would result in an increase in the annual salary of

$5,828 for each corrections officer by next year.  The statutory

criteria  and  evidence  in  this  record  supports  the  County's

position.  The Arbitrator should not reward the Union's tactics

with a "compromise  award on the wage issue.

 

D.        DISCUSSION AND FINDINGS

 

            The Arbitrator holds the Union's proposal to provide an

additional 5% increase for 1995 and an additional5% for 1996 over

the agreed on cost of living adjustments should not be adopted.

The Arbitrator does find that an additional increase of 1.25%,

effective July 1, 1996, is justified.  The adoption of the 1.25%

increase will establish the top-step pay on July 1, 1996, at $3,130

per month.   The reasoning of the Arbitrator- -as guided by the

statutory criteria--is set forth in the discussion which follows.

 

Constitutional and Statutory Authority of Employer

 

            Regarding the constitutional and statutory authority of

the employer, no issues were raised with respect to this factor.

While the County did argue in its post-hearing brief the Union's

proposal, "Is at war with the fiscal and budgetary actions that are

being taken by the County," the Arbitrator does not interpret this

as a claim the County is barred from paying an award over the

agreed on cost of living raises.  The Arbitrator will discuss the

cost factor later in this Award.

 

Stipulations of the Parties

 

            The parties have reached tentative agreement on all

language issues and cost of living adjustments for 1995, 1996 and

1997.  The record reflects the parties will continue the existing

salary schedule with adjustments as follows:

 

January 1, 1995 (retroactive) 3.15%

 

January 1, 1996 (retroactive) 2.88%

 

January 1, 1997  90% CPI-W

 

The parties also agreed to settle the "Shift Differential" issue

that was certified for interest arbitration.

 

            The parties also stipulated to limit their comparison to

other counties located in the state of Washington, and to exclude

West Coast counties outside the state of Washington.

 

Comparability

 

            The threshold issue to be decided is to determine the

appropriate  group  of  comparators  with  which  to  utilize  in

establishing the suitable level of wages for Snohomish County

corrections  officers.    The  parties  agreed  to  confine  their

comparator groups to corrections officers in Washington counties.

The parties  are  in sharp disagreement over which Washington

counties should be included in the comparator group.  Both sides

devoted considerable time and effort towards proving which. counties

best fit the statutory criteria.

 

            The Union argued that King County and Pierce County are

the two most directly comparable jurisdictions.   Clark County,

Skagit County and Thurston County were also offered by the Union to

provide useful guidance with which to measure wages for Snohomish

County corrections officers.   The County claimed that Pierce,

Clark, Spokane, Kitsap, Yakima and Thurston Counties best passed

the statutory test of "like employers."

 

            The Arbitrator holds the Union failed to demonstrate

"King County" was a like employer under the statute.  The Union

argued for inclusion of King County based on geographic location

and regional similarities.  The Arbitrator finds this argument did

not overcome the County's evidence which demonstrated significant

differences between King County and Snohomish County.   King

County's population is 1,613,600, as compared to the Snohomish

County population of 525,600.  When other characteristics such as

assessed valuation,  total taxes,  total expenditures,  etc., are

examined, the conclusion is inescapable that King County does not

meet the statutory test of a like employer sufficient to justify

adding King County to the list as a direct comparator.  If there

were an insufficient number of jurisdictions available to make a

valid comparison, King County might deserve some attention based on

geographic location.  However, that is not the situation in the

instant case.

 

            The 1996 case is the first interest arbitration between

the parties.   To place King County on the initial  list of

comparators would unnecessarily distort the data submitted to the

Arbitrator  for review.   There is  some merit to the Union's

arguments that the parties cannot totally ignore the impact of

Snohomish County's immediate neighbor to the south on the parties'

employment relationship.  Nor is the Arbitrator holding that in

future cases, guidance might not be found in the King County

situation.   However,  for  the  1996  interest arbitration,  the

Arbitrator concludes the use of King County as a comparator is not

justified and King County should not be included on the initial

list of comparator jurisdictions.

 

            The three jurisdictions common to both lists are Pierce,

Clark and Thurston Counties.  Spokane County clearly meets the test

of a like employer of similar size and should be included on the

list of comparators.   The use of a second county, located in

eastern Washington on a list of six comparators,  gives  this

Arbitrator some concern as to the total influence that should be

accorded  to  eastern  Washington  jurisdictions,  on  a  western

Washington county.   The County's evidence was persuasive that

Yakima  County  belongs  on  the  list  for  the  1996  interest

arbitration.

 

            The remaining dispute centers overwhether Kitsap County

or Skagit County should be among the group of comparators.  The

County's  evidence  was  unrebutted  that  Skagit  County  uses

corrections officer positions as a hiring and training ground for

its deputy sheriffs.  Based on this evidence the Arbitrator concurs

that Skagit County should be excluded from the list of comparators.

 

            In sum,  the four jurisdictions of Pierce,  Thurston,

Spokane and Clark provide a sound base for comparison.   When

combined with Yakima and Kitsap Counties, the six jurisdictions

form a balanced group of similarly sized, like employers to assist

in establishing the wage level for the members of this bargaining

unit.

 

            While the list of comparators offered by the County, and

adopted by the Arbitrator is not perfect,  the group of  six

jurisdictions will serve as a solid base for future negotiations.

Your Arbitrator spent a considerable amount of effort examining the

evidence and argument concerning the comparators because the six

jurisdictions used in this case will serve as the benchmark for

future negotiations.   As previously noted,  there should be no

further disagreements over the use of Pierce, Thurston, Spokane and

Clark Counties as appropriate comparators.   The use of Kitsap

County and Yakima County may be open for future debate.  The sphere

of influence of King County on Snohomish County will not go away as

the Seattle Metropolitan Area continues to grow and expand.

 

            The  Arbitrator  concludes  the  appropriate  group  of

comparators for the 1996 interest arbitration are as follows:

 

Pierce

Thurs ton

Clark

Spokane

Kitsap

Yakima

 

            The Arbitrator finds the context in which this first

interest arbitration arises is significant.   The parties have

agreed to cost of living adjustments for the duration of the 1995-

97 Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Further, they have agreed to

all issues in dispute, except for the Union's proposal on pension.

In the judgment of this Arbitrator, the compensation issue is a

basic wage dispute, and the evaluation of compensation should be

confined to basic wages.  The Arbitrator was unpersuaded by the

Union's arguments that a total compensation analysis should be used

in this case.  The application of a total compensation analysis of

the six comparators to Snohomish County in the first interest

arbitration between the parties would unnecessarily complicate and

confuse what is a basic wage dispute.

 

            The County's wage study revealed the following:

            1995                                                    C.O. Wage

            Pierce                                                  3165

            Thurs ton                                            3028

            Snohomish **                                     3005

            Spokane                                              2802

            Clark~(cola) *                                    2793

            Kitsap                                                 2772

            Yakima                                               2740

                                  

            Average                                             2883

            Snohomish                                          3005

            Sno v. Avg                                          + 4.2%

 

*Clark is in interest arbitration and has not settled for

1995, so a 3.0% COLA has been included in the above figure

**Including 3.15% COLA

 

            The above comparison of the 1995 wage level reveals

Snohomish County is 4.2% above the average which includes the two

lower paying eastern Washington jurisdictions of Spokane County and

Yakima  County.    While  Snohomish  County  ranks  third,  it  is

significantly behind the top paying Pierce County by $160 per

month.  Snohomish County will pay in 1995, $23 per month less than

the second ranked Thurston County.

 

            The top-step pay for a Snohomish County corrections

officer with the 2.88% cost of living adjustment in 1996 is $3,092

per month.  The Arbitrator was convinced that an additional wage

adjustment for 1996 is justified to narrow the gap between the top

paying Pierce County and to place Snohomish County corrections

officers at approximately the same wage level as Thurston County.

 

            The pattern is clear the three top counties are located

in western Washington on the I-5 corridor.  The four counties at

the lower end of the rankings are outside of the direct influence

of the Seattle Metropolitan Area.  The Arbitrator finds that 1.25%

should be added to the 1996 wage schedule to maintain and enhance

Snohomish County's competitive position within the comparator

group.  The additional 1.25% should be implemented effective July

1, 1996.

 

            The additional 1.25% will raise the top-step pay for 1996

by $39 to $3,130 per month.   In formulating this Award,  the

Arbitrator was mindful of the Union's intercounty cost of living

position.  In addition, the fact the Snohomish County jail is a

direct supervision type of facility, and the overcrowded conditions

in the jail warrant some recognition in the area of wages.  When

the  overcrowding  in  the  jail  is  combined  with  the  direct

supervision type of facility, the working conditions of the members

of this bargaining unit are adversely impacted.  The added 1.25%

effective July 1, 1996, will not disrupt the County's financial

program and will be consistent with increases in the cost of living

as recorded by the CPI.  The Seattle CPI-W for 1994 reflected a

3.64% increase.

 

            Moreover, the additional 1.25% is consistent with the

salary increases negotiated with other unions representing County

employees and local market wage increases by outside employers.  By

delaying the effective date of the adjustment to July 1, 1996, the

financial impact on the County is diminished.

 

Cost of Living

 

            The record evidence established that the National CPI-W

and CPI-U has been recording increases between 2.5% to 3% in recent

years.   The Seattle CPI-W is currently at 2.7%.  Er. Ex. 4D, Att.

12.  The Seattle CPI-W for 1994 showed a 3.64% increase.  Er. Ex.

4D, Att. 8.

 

            The County believes the CPI overstates "consumer prices"

by about 1%.   The County reasons the Arbitrator should use a

"revised figure of 2%" in analyzing this factor.  The Arbitrator

expressly rejects the County's invitation to tinker with the

published CPI figures by a reduction of 1% to account for the

purported overstatement in the measurement of increases in the

price of goods and services.

 

            The Arbitrator concurs with the County that the cost of

living factor is to be used as one of the guidelines for setting

the appropriate level of wages for employees.   The CPI measures

price increases in a set market basket of goods and services.  It

is not intended to measure the impact on any particular individual

because not all persons purchase that same market basket of goods

and services.   However,  the CPI  is widely recognized as an

important factor in determining an appropriate wage adjustment.

 

            The Arbitrator finds the evidence regarding cost of

living supports a wage settlement closer to the County's position

than the 10% proposed by the Union.   The parties have already

agreed to cost of living adjustments in each of the three years of

the 1995-97 contract.  In addition, the County's evidence proved

the members of this bargaining unit have fared well in recent years

when negotiated wage increases are compared with the corresponding

changes in the CPI over the past ten years.  The Seattle CPI-W

increased by 43.3% during the 1985-95 period.   For that same

period,  negotiated  wage  increases  for  the  members  of  this

bargaining unit increased by 72.3%.

 

            The Union argued the Arbitrator when considering the cost

of living factor must take into account differences in the cost of

living among the comparators.  According to the Union, it costs

more to live in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett Area than in other

geographic locations in the state.  Thus, the Union submits it is

necessary to adjust the wage levels to reflect the differences in

the cost of living among the comparison group.

 

            To sustain its cost of living case, the Union relied on

the ACCRA Cost of Living Index for measuring relative price levels

for consumer goods and services in participating areas.  Un. Exs.

16, 17.  The Arbitrator finds the Union's exclusive reliance on the

ACCRA Index for assessing the difference in the cost of living in

Snohomish  County  with  that  of  the  comparable  jurisdictions

unpersuasive.  The reliability of using the ACCRA Index to justify

an automatic cost of living differential between the comparators as

calculated by the Union in Union Exhibits 7  and 10 was not

established.

 

            Moreover,  the ACCRA study does not cover all of the

geographic areas from which the proposed comparators are drawn.  It

should also be noted that the ACCRA Index does not purport to

measure inflation which is the function of the various CPIs.  On

the other hand,  the CPI does not  seek to measure  the cost

differentials among the geographic areas for which indexes are

maintained.

 

            Based on the record, the Arbitrator must conclude the

Union's intercity cost of living adjustments should not be applied

in the rigid and mechanical manner argued for by the Union.  At

most, the Arbitrator accepts the Union's evidence and argument, to

permit a reasonable inference that the cost of living in the

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett Area is higher than the other Washington

Areas measured in the ACCRA Index, such as Yakima.  The Arbitrator

expressly rejects the Union's methodology which indexed wages to

account for cost of living differences among the comparators by

fixed amounts displayed in the ACCRA study.

 

            Changes During the Pendency of the Proceedings

 

            The only relevant change in circumstances is the wage

increases received by officers in the comparable jurisdictions

during the course of bargaining for this contract.  One point is

clear, none of the jurisdictions proposed by either side agreed to

increases of 10% over the cost of living adjustments for 1995.  The

agreed on.wage increases for 1996 were 3% in Pierce County, 3.25%

in Spokane County, 2.88% in Kitsap County, 2.5% on January 1, 1996,

and an additional 2.5% on July 1, 1996, in Yakima County.  The

record reflects that inany of the adjustments were driven by CPI

formulas.

 

Other Traditional Factors

 

            The Union argued the working conditions corroborate the

need for a raise in addition to the cost of living adjustments.

According to the Union, the Snohomish County jail is "punishingly

overcrowded."  When the overcrowding is combined with the fact the

jail is a direct supervision facility,  the Union submits the

working conditions justify additional compensation for the members

of this unit.  The County countered the documentary evidence showed

nothing out of the ordinary for Snohomish County when comparing

working conditions in the corrections industry.

 

            The Arbitrator finds the Union's evidence on overcrowding

when coupled with the direct supervision type of facility argues in

favor of an additional wage increase for the members of this

bargaining unit.  However, there is no support for the 10% increase

sought  by  the  Union  as  recognition  of  the  adverse  working

conditions for this group of officers.  In formulating this Award,

the Arbitrator found support from this evidence to warrant the

modest increase over the agreed on cost of living increase for

1996.

 

            The lack of turnover in this unit demonstrates the 10%

increase sought by the Union is unnecessary to attract and retain

qualified officers.

 

            The County did not make a straightforward inability to

pay argument.  Instead, the County asserted the Union's proposal

was at war with fiscal and budgetary actions that are being taken

by the County to protect its financial stability.  Because the

Union's proposal is extremely costly, the County asserts it should

not be awarded by this Arbitrator.

 

            The County's evidence did not demonstrate an inability to

pay the Union's proposals.  However, the County's arguments were

persuasive that the substantial increase in wages sought by the

Union would run counter to the County's efforts to control its

expenditures so as not to jeopardize its financial situation.

Given the absence of hard evidence to support the 10% increase over

the agreed on cost of living adjustments, the Arbitrator holds it

would be inappropriate to grant the additional 10% sought by the

Union.

 

AWARD

 

            The Arbitrator awards that effective July 1, 1996, an

additional 1.25% be added to the salary schedule over the agreed on

cost of living adjustments for 1995 and 1996.

 

ISSUE 2 - PENSION

 

A.        Background

 

            The members of this bargaining unit currently participate

in the PERS plan that covers all County employees.   The Union

submitted a proposal which would allow the employees to vote on

whether or not they wanted to move to the Western Conference of

Teamsters Pension Trust Fund.  The County proposed to maintain the

status quo and continue with the PERS plan.

 

B.        The Union

 

            The Union's proposal to add new language on the subject

of pensions read:

 

            ARTICLE  PENSION

 

Subject to a vote of the bargaining unit

referenced below, the Employer shall pay into

the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension

Trust Fund on account of each member of the

bargaining unit for all compensable hours per

calendar month.

 

The total amount due for each calendar month

shall be remitted in a lump sum at the time

specified by the Administrator of the Trust

Fund.  The Employer shall abide by such rules

as may be established by the Trustees of said

Trust Fund to facilitate the determination of

the   reporting   and   recording   of   the

contribution amounts paid on account of each

member of the bargaining unit.

 

The  effective  date  and  the  amount  of

contribution shall be determined by a vote of

the bargaining unit.  However, contributions

to the Trust shall be required only if the

employees simultaneously vote to reduce their

hourly wage rates set forth in this Agreement.

The Employer's hourly contribution to the

Trust shall be equal to the difference between

the  hourly  wage  rate  set  forth  in  this

Agreement and the lower rate voted by the

bargaining unit.

 

            The gist of the Union's proposal provides that members

would be allowed to participate in the Western Conference of

Teamsters Pension Trust (hereinafter "Trust") only to the extent

they simultaneously agreed to reduce their hdurly wage rates in an

amount equal to the amount of contribution to the Trust.  According

to the Union, the proposal has no economic impact on the County

because the County would simply pay to the Trust monies it would

otherwise be obligated to pay directly to the custody officer.

 

            The Union next argued that coverage under the Trust would

provide a potential windfall to Snohomish County officers.  Union

witness Endresen testified that under the Trust rules a new

participant is credited with three years of service for each of the

first five years of participation in the Trust, to the extent the

officer has been employed by the contributing employer.  In other

words, an officer with ten years of seniority would at the end of

five years have fifteen years of service credit with the Trust in

the corresponding vested benefit. Endresen calculated that at a $1

an hour contribution rate, this would provide a lifetime benefit of

$832 per month for only five years of participation.  Under the

PERS 2 program, the member would only generate a $583 per month

benefit after ten years of participation.  Un. Ex. 14.

 

            Regarding the County's claim that cost to the County

would increase over the years, the Union submits the County's

concern is exaggerated because the County will continue to have

control over the level of future contributions.  In the view of the

Union, the County will only agree to increase contributions that it

believes are in its best interest.  In addition, participation in

the Trust would provide an immediate economic windfall to the

County because future wage increases are calculated as a function

of the CPI percentages.  When a bargaining unit member voluntarily

reduces his or her wages, they will require correspondingly smaller

salary increases.  The bottom line is if the bargaining unit votes

to participate in the Trust, the County will experience immediate

savings.

 

            The Union asks the Arbitrator to reject the County's

claim at arbitration that it had been somehow mislead because of

the absence of a written proposal on the pension issue.  The County

negotiator testified the County was irreversibly opposed to the

Union pension proposal, and the Union correctly concluded that

forwarding precise language would have been a futile act.  There is

no basis for inferring any bad faith by the Union over concluding

the County did not know the parameters of the Union's pension

proposal.

 

            In sum, the Arbitrator should adopt the Union's pension

proposal because it costs the County nothing while at the same time

provides a potentially generous benefit for the members of the

bargaining unit.

 

C.        The County

 

            The County begins by noting the Teamster Pension Plan is

not available to other employees in the County.  The County already

offers all employees a deferred compensation plan allowing them to

set aside a generous $7,500 in pretax dollars annually.  However,

less than 30% of custody and corrections officers currently make

use of the deferred compensation plan that is already available to

the members of this unit.   The County claims an award of the

Union's proposal would also create an expectation in the minds of

other employee groups that they are somehow disadvantaged because

they do not have access to yet another retirement savings plan.

 

            The County argues the Union's proposal was not fully

explained or seriously pursued during bargaining.   The Union's

written proposal on the pension issue first surfaced at the

interest arbitration hearing.  Given this failure to fully develop

and articulate the pension plan at the bargaining table, the Union

should not be rewarded with this proposal presented for the first

time at the arbitration hearing.  The record is also void of any

evidence to show that adoption of the Teamster Pension Plan

proposal is supported by comparable counties.

 

            The County next argues that to the extent the Union's

proposal concerns internal Union matters or imposes administrative

costs on the County to effectuate an employee benefit,  it is

clearly a permissive subject of bargaining not properly before the

Arbitrator.  It is unclear what safeguards or protections would

accompany the vote of the membership which would then utilize the

County's payroll system to make the pension contributions.  The

Arbitrator should reject the Union's proposal to impose on the

County a pension benefit which is uncertain in scope and effect.

The County is also concerned that its participation in the Teamster

Pension  Plan  would  impact  on  the  County's  legal  standing.

Governmental pension plans are not subject to ERISA.  The Teamster

Plan is an ERISA plan.  The possibility of the County subjecting

itself to ERISA is not something the County seeks to undertake

because of the potential for increased administrative costs and

legal reguirements.

 

D.        DISCUSSION AND FINDINGS

 

            The Arbitrator finds that the Union's proposal to provide

an option for the members of this bargaining unit to participate in

the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund should not

be included in the contract at this time.  The members of this

bargaining unit currently belong to the PERS program which is

available to all County employees.   The movement to a private

pension plan involves complicated and potentially expensive issues.

The Arbitrator was persuaded by the County's case that the Union's

pension proposal was not thoroughly discussed at the bargaining

table.   The presentation of a written pension proposal for the

first time at interest arbitration argues against an award in favor

of the Union.

 

            Moreover,  less than 30% of custody and corrections

officers make use of a deferred compensation plan currently

available to the officers.   The lack of participation in the

deferred compensation plan indicates there is little need for an

additional pension program which would require the members to

reduce their salary in much the same way as the present deferred

compensation program.

 

            The record in this case is also lacking in any evidence

to show that adoption of the Teamster Pension Plan proposal is

supported by the comparable counties.   In rejecting the Union

pension proposal, the Arbitrator is not making any findings as to

the merits of the Teamster pension Plan.  Nor does the Arbitrator

dispute the fact that there might be advantages to be obtained for

the members by participation in the Teamster Pension Plan.  The

holding in this case is based on the absence of meaningful

bargaining on the specifics of the Teamster Pension Plan and the

numerous financial and legal implications to the County if such a

plan were adopted.   Therefore,  it will be the Award of  the

Arbitrator to maintain the status Quo on the matter of pensions for

the duration of the successor contract.

 

AWARD

 

            The Arbitrator awards that the Union's pension proposal

should not become a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and

the pension program shall remain unchanged.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Gary L. Axon

 

Arbitrator

Dated: July 30, 1996