County Labor Consultant Fails To Produce Promised Offer

Skagit County’s labor consultant failed as of noon July 28 to produce a contract offer for Guemes Island Ferry Workers, after assuring the ferry workers’ contract negotiation team that they would have one by July 24.

Bob Braun of Braun & Associates of Woodinville asked the ferry workers’ contract negotiators for comparative wage data after the July 5 mediation session. The ferry negotiation team supplied the information – including cost of living data and copies of contracts with wage tables for workers at other Western Washington ferry systems. The ferry workers’ negotiation team has supplied the information now more than once since the first contract negotiation session began in October 2021.

State Rep. Deb Lekanoff, D-40th District, visited Guemes Island Ferry crew members James Haugen and Evan Noteboom and others during a Day of Action on May 1 on 6th Street and I Avenue, Anacortes. The ferry workers didn't operate the ferry that day -- but stood ready to respond to emergency calls -- to call attention to their efforts to obtain a fair contract and livable wage. (Photo: Richard Walker)

“We've completed four days of mediation and we're waiting on an official response from the County," said Peter D. Hart, regional director, Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific Puget Sound Region, which represents the ferry workers. “I'd like to say we're cautiously optimistic, but we've been at this for over 20 months.”

• The Guemes Island Ferry’s three captains, 11 purser-deckhands, two purser-deckhands with master’s licenses, and one mechanic have been working without a contract since Jan. 1, 2022. The last three-year contract expired Dec. 31. 2021. The contract now being negotiated is for Jan. 1, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2024.

• The starting wage for purser-deckhands has gone up $2.95 an hour since 2009; the top wage for a purser-deckhand is $27.20 an hour.

• The county previously offered ferry workers a wage adjustment that was not equal among all ferry workers, in addition to 2 percent wage increases for 2022, 2023 and 2024. All other bargaining units and non-represented employees in the county – including all other Public Works employees and the ferry manager -- received a wage adjustment in addition to 3 percent increases for 2022, 2023 and 2024.

• Ferry workers voted down the county’s contract offer, seeking equitable treatment. The county then asked to go to mediation and ferry workers voted the request down, saying,  “We've completed four days of mediation and we're waiting on an official response from the County,”

The Guemes Island Ferry is a division of Skagit County Public Works Department. The ferry workers are Public Works employees. Ferry Manager Rachel Rowe, a non-union management employee, is also an employee of Public Works.

 Here are the facts:

They preferred to negotiate rather than mediate. After the county declared both sides to be at an impasse, the state Public Employment Relations Commission assigned a mediator to try and resolve the dispute.

• The wage adjustments given to other bargaining units and non-represented employees were based on a wage study conducted by the county. During an earlier mediation session, county contract negotiators disclosed that ferry workers were not included in the wage study because “ferry workers opted out.” That is not true. Knowingly presenting false information to a public servant – either the mediator or county officials who made the decision not to include ferry workers in the wage study – could be a violation of state law, RCW 9A.76.175.

• The union filed a Public Records Request asking for the source of the false information that ferry workers opted out of the wage study. The county has not responded to the Public Records Request.

• The state Public Employment Relations Commission accepted for investigation and hearing the ferry workers’ Unfair Labor Practices Complaint that Ferry Manager Rachel Rowe unilaterally changed crew scheduling practices without providing the union an opportunity for bargaining, in violation of RCW 41.56.140(4) and RCW 41.56.140(1)]. Ferry workers have distributed fliers to ferry users alerting them that a lack of a fair contract and livable wage could cause crew shortages, jeopardizing ferry service.

Ferry worker wages have long failed to keep pace with the local cost of living. As a result, five ferry workers live outside of Anacortes and seven employees have second jobs.

“The county and its contracted consultant, Bob Braun – who according to public records has been paid nearly $500,000 over 10 years to negotiate the county’s labor agreements -- are jeopardizing the ability of the ferry to ensure it is adequately crewed and able to respond to after-hour emergencies a timely manner,” said Capt. Guy Mitchell, a member of the ferry workers’ contract negotiation team. “This concerns us as professional mariners. We ask ferry users to please contact the county public works director, the human resources director and county commissioners and tell them you support a fair contract and livable wage for ferry workers.”

 County officials’ contact information:

Commissioner Ron Wesen, District 1: 360-416-1300,

Commissioner Peter Browning, District 2: 360-416-1300

Commissioner Lisa Janicki, District 3: 360-416-1300,

Human Resources Director Bonnie Beddall, 360-416-1381,

Public Works Director Grace Kane, 360-416-1456, 360-333-9246,

Submitted by Guemes Island Ferry Workers, a bargaining unit of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific Puget Sound Region.

Tags: ferry