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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Republicans Blast State's Collective Bargaining Process

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Unionized Washington state employees rally for higher pay and better work conditions at an event in the Capitol Rotunda in Olympia. Republicans say the collective bargaining process in Washington is flawed.

Washington Republicans say the way state employees collectively bargain pay and benefits is not transparent and presents a conflict of interest.

In the Capitol Rotunda Wednesday, unionized state workers rallied for better pay and work conditions. But contract negotiations -- now underway -- take place behind closed doors and without the input of state lawmakers.

Republican state Senator John Braun called that “absolutely backwards.”

“The executive branch works out all the details and we just get a yes or no, a veto power,” he said.

Braun isn’t the only Republican to criticize Washington’s bargaining process. Gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant pointed to union campaign contributions to his Democratic rival, Gov. Jay Inslee.

“I don’t think a governor should be allowed to take a campaign donation from a union, or a corporation, that he or she has negotiated and concluded a contract with,” Bryant said.

The Inslee campaign said the governor takes his bargaining responsibility seriously. And the legislature’s vote is an appropriate check on the system.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."