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Latest News - February 2014

February 11, 2014
Labor Union Talks Shouldn't Be Hidden from Public, Idaho Lawmaker Says
By: Kimberlee Kruesi

Negotiations with labor unions should no longer be hidden from the public, one lawmaker told the House State Affairs Committee on Monday.

Idaho’s Open Meeting Law allows cities and counties to conduct labor negotiations in closed executive sessions, except for teacher contracts, which were made public with the approval of Students Come First laws.

State Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, said the Legislature should strike the exemption for all labor negotiations from the open meeting law, allowing closed sessions only “to consider labor contract offers and counteroffers.”

“This is the people’s business,” Harris said. “This should be a transparent process.”

State Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said he worries that conversations would be stifled if the public were allowed in.

“The policy has been that we keep the public out for various reasons,” Barbieri said. “It’s so we allow frank and open discussions between parties. How is this going to facilitate open and frank discussions?”

Harris said he feels the exemption goes against the spirit of the law.

“Hopefully, because it is open, because it is public, some feel like there’s less game playing,” he said.

Twin Falls officials rarely cite labor negotiations as a reason to hold executive sessions because they only work with one union, said city spokesman Joshua Palmer.

Instead, most executive sessions are held under the law’s personnel exception, Palmer said.

AFL-CIO President Rian Van Leuven said firefighter unions would be most affected by the change, but he hadn’t heard of anyone opposing the bill as of Monday evening.

“If it stymies open and honest conversation or if it prevents collective bargaining, that’s something we wouldn’t support,” Van Leuven said.

The committee passed the bill unanimously, and it now moves forward to a possible full hearing.




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