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Teamsters Local Union No. 117 v. The Dep't of Corrections

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

January 22, 2014

Teamsters Local Union No. 117 et al., Appellants,
v.
The Department of Corrections et al., Respondents

Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 11-2-11257-3. Date filed: 05/25/2012. Judge signing: Honorable Linda Cj Lee.

Daniel A Swedlow (of Teamsters Local 117 ), for appellants.

Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and Valerie B. Petrie and Denise R. Pruitt, Assistants, for respondents.

AUTHOR: Jill M Johanson, J. We concur: J. Robin Hunt, J., Lisa Worswick, C.J.

OPINION

Page 512

[179 Wn.App. 113] Johanson, J.

¶ 1 This is a case of first impression in which we are asked to determine whether chapter 41.80 RCW protects public employees' " concerted activities" [1] from employer interference, restraint, or coercion. We hold that Washington's public employee rights statute clearly does not protect public employees' " concerted activities." Teamsters Local Union No. 117 (Union) and Phyllis Cherry [2] appeal from a Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) order that dismissed Washington Corrections Center for Women (Corrections Center) shop steward Cherry's unfair labor practice complaint. The Teamsters argue that (1) PERC erred in interpreting chapter 41.80 RCW's protections, (2) PERC erred in concluding that Cherry's e-mail activities were not statutorily protected, and (3) evidence adequately supports the hearing examiner's vacated conclusions and rebuts PERC's conclusions. Analyzing the merits of the issues properly before us on appeal, we hold that the Teamsters do not demonstrate that state law protects " concerted activities," which they contend includes the two e-mails Cherry sent to Corrections Center custody staff; nor do the Teamsters demonstrate that PERC erred in interpreting Washington's public employee rights law. Further [179 Wn.App. 114] holding that sufficient evidence supports PERC's findings that Cherry's actions were not protected by chapter 41.80 RCW, we affirm PERC.

FACTS

¶ 2 Cherry is a Department of Corrections (DOC) officer at the Corrections Center. She is also a shop steward for the Union, meaning that she acts as a contact, an information source, and an advocate for Corrections Center union employees.

I. " Concerted Activities"

A. August 2009, No Immediate Sanctions

¶ 3 In August 2009, Cherry logged into the DOC's intranet, " Inside DOC," and read an article about DOC hiring a former state senator to serve as a victim advocate for female inmates. " Inside DOC" linked to a news article that included this new inmate victim advocate's salary. After reading these articles, Cherry used her DOC computer to send an e-mail from her DOC e-mail address to all Corrections Center custody staff which read:

For your information:
[The Corrections Center] will be getting a new staff [member] former state Senator to be the inmate advocate for victims of staff sexual misconduct. And of course, look at her salary to be an advocate for inmates.
Phyllis Cherry

Clerk's Papers (CP) at 274. Cherry's e-mail linked to the news article that showed the ...


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