The year 2020 has been eventful and challenging for all of us. Like so many of you, PERC has been working remotely and virtually since mid-March. Per the Governor’s request, PERC will continue to do so through at least June 2021. PERC is not conducting or scheduling in-person events until further notice. While working completely remotely presents new challenges, I am proud of how quickly the agency pivoted to be able to offer all of PERC’s services virtually. We have conducted many mediations, hearings, trainings, and elections virtually since March. I am grateful to parties who have been willing to conduct these proceedings virtually and for the positive feedback we have received about them.
The volume of case filings has been down this year. This is not a surprise given that, like PERC, employers had to first figure out how to operate either virtually or under new safety protocols and address the economic implications of the pandemic. While case filings increased in the latter half of the year, the overall number of filings for 2020 will be well below that of other years. One exception to the decreased case filings is the volume of representation petitions. The number of representation or unit clarification petitions is above the five-year average. Additionally, as a benefit of conducting elections virtually, we have seen an increase in the number of interested parties viewing the process.
Finally, we continue to enhance our website to better provide information to interested parties. To that end, we are in the process of updating a number of pages on our website. Among these is our conflict prevention or training page. The updated page not only allows people to more easily find information but also to see the types of current training offerings, including the new Negotiation Project. The Negotiation Project is an innovative conflict prevention program that explores how academic theories and research about negotiation apply in Washington State public-sector labor relations. Through online and eventually in-person discussions, negotiators can improve their skills and better manage conflicts.
As this year comes to a close, I want to thank all the staff at PERC for their work and commitment to facilitating harmonious labor relations. I also want to thank them for their adaptability and flexibility during this year.
Michael P. Sellars, Executive Director
Public Employment Relations Commission