As we approach the halfway point of 2022, PERC continues to conduct all events and services virtually, as we have done since March of 2020. We reopened our offices in April of this year but, like in many workplaces, our staff are all working a hybrid of in the office and remotely. In my conversations with clientele, I have acknowledged that PERC will be slow to phase in in-person events. As I have previously remarked, when our staff conduct in-person events they are traveling to locations all throughout the state, working in conference rooms with groups of parties for long periods of time with a high potential for exposure. The health of my staff, particularly in light of that kind of work setting, is my paramount concern in determining when and how to phase in in-person events.
Even though we have not provided in-person events since March of 2020, we have offered all our services virtually since that time. In our recently completed Annual Report for 2021, we looked at the data to see whether limiting our services to being virtual has detracted from the effectiveness of our services. All our available data shows no discernable differences in the efficacy of these virtual offerings.
Mediation cases remained open and resulted in agreement at a rate consistent with prior years. Adjudication cases went to hearing at about the same rate as usual, and agency decisions were issued within the target time frames. Representation activity continued to be high, with the most bargaining units created in a single year since we started capturing this data.
One thing that has not returned to pre-pandemic levels is the number of conflict prevention or training requests. Nonetheless, our training team has found ways to increase our reach during this time. In 2021, we began offering lunchtime Zoom sessions as part of The Negotiation Project, where topics of negotiation theory and applications of the same are discussed. To sign up for the mailing list for The Negotiation Project and the monthly zoom sessions, click here. This year, we also launched The PERColator Podcast which further explores negotiation theory and ties it to practice. Episodes 14 and 15 on “The Spaces We Bargain” are now online. We are excited about these offerings and are envisioning how we can touch upon other topics with these formats.
Also, this year saw the beginning of the new process for appointing arbitrators to conduct arbitrations of disciplinary grievances for law enforcement personnel. RCW 41.58.070 was passed by the legislature in 2021 and required PERC to create a roster of 9 to 18 arbitrators to conduct these types of arbitrations. Beginning in 2022, PERC has been required to appoint an arbitrator from the roster on a rotating, alphabetical basis. Since January 1, we have appointed 14 arbitrators from this roster to conduct arbitrations of disciplinary grievances for law enforcement personnel. No decisions have yet to be issued, but once issued they will be on the decisions page of our website.
If you have any questions or feedback about our services, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Michael P. Sellars, Executive Director
Public Employment Relations Commission