May 6, 2011

Being right isn't always enough - judge upholds furloughs

A judge Friday morning upheld the furloughs mandated by the 2010 Legislature, ending the union’s court challenge for now.

An appeal is permitted. The union’s two challenges in other venues remain alive. The unfair labor practice complaint goes to four days of hearing at the Public Employment Relations Commission in June. And the separate grievance is on hold pending the outcome of the ULP proceedings and the court case.

On the court case, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Pomeroy granted the state’s motion for a summary judgment and dismissed the Federation’s basis for the lawsuit.

Pomeroy said there was no violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution because there was a “rational relationship” between the Legislature’s policy bill calling for the 10 furlough days and budget language calling for savings from compensation through the furloughs, or temporary layoffs.

The judge also said the state’s actions did not impair the union’s General Government contract. She said taken as a whole, the contract’s article dealing with temporary layoffs did allow the state to impose the 10 furlough days because of a “revenue shortfall.” The union had argued that the contract provision allowed furloughs only for emergency financial situations and that the state knew since 2008 it had a budget problem. The state could have made up the $73.3 million in targeted savings by using a myriad of other options, the union argued.

The court decision affects only the furloughs that run through next month. It does not affect the negotiated flexible furloughs, or temporary salary reduction plan, in the 2011-2013 contract that is awaiting legislative ratification.

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