As we come to the end of 2019, we are starting to compile and review the data regarding the year’s work. Notably, the number of grievance and contract mediation cases was substantially lower in 2019 compared to 2018. In contrast, the number of representation cases was significantly higher than in 2018. The number of unfair labor practice complaints was higher as well. We will dive further into these numbers to determine what they represent as we prepare our annual report for 2019.
In my last message, I noted that 2019 has been very different from 2018 with respect to K-12 mediations and strike activity. That largely remains true. We have had 35 K-12 mediation requests and there were four strikes—three by teachers and one by other K-12 employees. However, one phenomenon from 2018 has continued into 2019. That is, we continue to receive K-12 mediation requests after the school year begins. We received 10 K-12 mediation requests after October 1, and there are still 15 open K-12 mediations. We have also seen two strikes occur after the school year began.
Historically, our K-12 mediation activity—particularly for teachers—has occurred from July to early September. Any strike activity has also historically occurred around the beginning of the school year. We still anticipate the K-12 work to peak from July to early September, but we are monitoring the extent the mediations and strike activity become more year-round since they impact how we manage case assignments and workload.
We continue to work on developing an electronic filing system that will integrate with our case management system. We had hoped to make the filing system available to all users between late 2019 and early 2020, but we just began internal testing this month. Barring any issues during our testing with staff and selected clientele, I anticipate the electronic filing system will be live and available for all parties seeking to file with PERC in the first half of 2020.
Also coming in 2020 is a new training offering from our training team on collective bargaining negotiations. This multi-day course is designed to provide theoretical and practical approaches to negotiating and decision-making through a series of simulated exercises and workshops. Any of our clientele—advanced negotiators and those new to collective bargaining alike—will be invited to attend. More information will be available in the spring.
As the year comes to a close, I want to publicly thank all the PERC staff for their work. The people at PERC are committed to the principles of labor relations and are invested in helping parties resolve and prevent disputes. I hear time and again how the people at PERC are creative, invested problem solvers.
Michael P. Sellars, Executive Director
Public Employment Relations Commission