As we enter into the final two months of the year, we are beginning to compare 2019 to prior years. With the unprecedented number of K-12 mediation requests and strike activity in 2018, everyone thought 2019 would be relatively active. However, 2019 has turned out to be very different from 2018 in the amount of K-12 mediation requests.
We are still receiving mediation requests involving teachers and other school employees. So far, we have received 12 teacher mediation requests and 14 mediation requests involving other school employees, and there have been three school employee strikes with the most recent occurring this month. This stands in contrast to 2018, when we received 51 teacher mediation requests and 59 other school employee mediation requests, and there were 17 school employee strikes.
School districts and the unions representing school employees are still adjusting to the changes to the school funding model and school employees’ health insurance. So, it is too soon to tell what the new normal is with respect to K-12 mediations and strike activity.
A number of pieces of legislation that impact public sector labor relations went into effect this summer. Notably, beginning in late July, the threshold for card checks was reduced to 50% plus one for all groups of employees eligible to organize by card check. We will track the impact of this statutory change on our representation work and report on it in our Annual Report for 2019.
We also completed a refresh of our website. Among the changes is featuring the agency’s Twitter feed on the front page of the website. This allows those who do not follow @WashPERC on Twitter to see the latest updates, rather than waiting for my quarterly message. We will continue to refine the content on the website so that it provides useful, timely, and clear information to all users.
We continue to work on an electronic filing system that is integrated with our case management system. We will begin testing the system, both internally and with a small group of external users, in November. We hope to make the system available to all users in late 2019 or early 2020.
We are also working on our Strategic Plan for 2020–2022, with the goal of completing it by the end of 2019. We will report on how well we accomplished the 2017–2019 Strategic Plan tasks in our Annual Report for 2019.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that we have hired two new Labor Relations Adjudicators/Mediators. Dan Hickey and Loyd Willaford joined PERC in August. Dan comes from the National Labor Relations Board, where he worked since 2001—most recently as a Senior Labor Management Relations Examiner. Loyd comes to us from Cline & Associates, where he practiced employment law and represented unions on labor matters. We are excited to have them both with us.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Michael P. Sellars, Executive Director
Public Employment Relations Commission