This meeting on June 30, 1977, of the Human Resources and Operations Committee, chaired by Jeanette Williams, was held to hear the concerns of the City's intermittent workers. Subsequent to this hearing, John R Scannell and the Intermittent Workers Federation filed a suit against the City for benefits in 1978; specifically the suit was filed on behalf of seventeen plaintiffs for vacation pay. The plaintiffs represented employees who worked for the City more than half-time on an ongoing basis. The Superior Court and State Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the City, but in 1983, the State Supreme Court overturned the lower courts, ruling that temporary employees were entitled to vacation pay. Later in 1983, the suit became a class action case. In 1987, the claim was expanded to include other types of benefits, such as health insurance, retirement, sick leave, and holiday pay. The State Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the City. The case was settled out of court in 1989 for $5.5 million in retroactive employee benefits.
Excerpt from the Human Resources and Operations Committee, June 30, 1977
Councilmember Jeanette Williams: I've got a John R, is it?
John Scannell: Scannell.
Scannell: I'm an intermittent employee at the Seattle Center, currently organizing a group called the Intermittent Workers Federation, which is hopefully an attempt to build a union around the problems of intermittent workers throughout the City. As I understand it, last fall I was the first person to use this grievance procedure. Since then, I think I've pushed thirteen grievances, some of them up to Step 3, two and three times, literally forced to do so simply because I initiated the first grievance. And I think there's some real problems with the wording of this grievance, and I think a lot of the problems that resulted from my grievance could be resolved through, you know, clarifying some of the issues and procedures that are in this grievance procedure.
First of all, the grievance procedure is only as strong as its ability to protect the employee who wants to use it. If the employee uses this grievance procedure and loses his job, then it's no grievance procedure - in fact it's counteractive, counterproductive. I think when this grievance procedure is applied to intermittent workers, and the current interpretation given by the City of Seattle on how intermittent employees are scheduled, I think that is the case. We don't think that their interpretation will stand up in court but we think that at a minimum the eventual court's decision could be made more explicit through rewriting the retaliation provisions...
So what I would like to see is perhaps some kind of wording, like in the landlord-tenant law, which says that any action taken within a certain time period by management, say 90 days, after a grievance procedure is initiated, will be assumed to be retaliatory...
The second point that I would like to make is that about the procedurals, from a procedural standpoint. I think that Council has to remember that this is a non-represented procedure. Yet, if you look at the wording in it, it's based on a represented grievance procedure...
The third thing I'd like to bring up as far as procedures is that I really object to the new wording that says that a meeting really doesn't have to occur. I suppose Everett was referring at least in part to my grievance when he said, "You know, we've had cases where ten to fifteen people show up." Well, when you have a case dealing with retaliation, well, sure, you have to have a lot of witnesses to show up. In our case, we had some real problems because our witnesses started losing their jobs. Yeah, retaliation cases are very difficult to prove and you need lots of witnesses to everything that happened. For Personnel Civil Service to make decisions on retaliation on the basis of one person's word versus another person's word without even holding a meeting, I think is really, really arbitrary. So I think that really, as far as that goes, to have a grievance procedure, that meeting has to occur.
The final point that I would like to make, I don't see any point why there shouldn't be, I mean I don't see why there shouldn't be any step for binding arbitration. Most of the issues that are going to be dealt with in this grievance procedure can be pursued through the courts anyway. I think it's in the City's interest, and in the employee's interest, to not try to pursue these issues through courtroom battles. It's a lot easier, a lot less expensive, for both sides just to submit to arbitration.
Citation: Human Resources and Operations Committee Meeting, June 30, 1977. Event ID 4123, Seattle City Council Legislative Department Audio Recordings, 4601-03.