Transfer Of Police Work To Security Officers Is Unlawful ‘Skimming’

Written on 10/08/2022
Will Aitchison

Teamsters Local 117 represents a bargaining unit of full-time and regular part-time police officers employed by the University of Washington (UWPD) in Seattle. The University also employs secu­rity personnel who are represented by the Service Employees International Union.

In 2020, after months of civil unrest throughout the country, the University received a list of demands from the Black Student Union (BSU) seeking changes. The BSU requested that the University “disarm and divest from UWPD.” The University president issued a letter re­sponding to those demands, announcing the University’s intent to “re-imagine a more holistic approach to campus safety that minimizes armed police presence on the Seattle campus.” The letter identified the University’s goal “to limit UWPD response to those situations where there is a threat of, or realistic possibility of, im­minent harm.” The University would do this by implementing an online reporting system and allow reports to be made “to unarmed public safety responders.”

The University also announced that it would create a team of security employees to respond to calls for non-crime related matters, such as welfare checks. Addition­ally, the University planned to reduce the size of its police force by at least 20% from what it was in 2019.

When the University refused to bar­gain over the transfer of the responsibility for patrolling residence halls to security personnel, Local 117 filed an unfair labor practice complaint. Washington’s Public Employment Relations Commission agreed with Local 117 and found that the University breached its bargaining obligations.

PERC noted that “the threshold question in a skimming case is whether the work that the University assigned to non‑bargaining unit employees is bar­gaining unit work. If the work was not bargaining unit work, then the analysis stops, and the University would not have had an obligation to bargain its decision to assign the work. In this matter the Hearing Examiner held that the work of patrolling the residence halls was bargaining unit work, and we agree.

“We then must determine whether the transfer of work between units lies at the core of entrepreneurial control or is a management prerogative. A weighing process is used to determine whether the decision to assign bargaining unit work to non-bargaining unit employees was a mandatory subject of bargaining. Cam­pus Police Officers have historically been assigned to patrol the University’s various residence halls. The regular dorm patrols constitute work that belongs to Local 117 employees.

“The University was not undertaking a partial closure of its facilities such as was deemed to be a permissive subject of bargaining. There is no evidence that the University has altered its decision to provide accommodations to students in its residence halls, undertaken capital expen­ditures in support of its initiative, or altered the basic scope of its educational mission. The University is merely substituting the security workers for the police officers in performing the same task of patrolling the same residence halls, all employed by and under the control of the police department. This is textbook skimming and cannot be overlooked by labelling it a matter of strong managerial interest.

“Even if we were required to weigh the University’s asserted managerial prerogatives against Local 117’s interest in preserving work opportunities for the employees it represents, we would find Local 117’s interest outweighed that of the University. When the Commission certifies a bargaining unit, the certifi­cation establishes the work jurisdiction. Bargaining unit work remains unchanged until a petition to modify the bargaining unit is decided or the parties bargain to a good faith agreement or impasse about the scope of bargaining unit work. Any decision to transfer or ‘skim’ bargaining unit work from the bargaining unit that traditionally performed that work to a different bargaining unit or unrepresent­ed employees is a mandatory subject of bargaining.”

PERC ordered the University to restore the work of patrolling the Uni­versity’s residence halls “in its entirety and exclusively to the police bargaining unit represented by Teamsters Local 117, and to make any eligible bargaining unit employees whole, with interest, by paying them wages and benefits lost as a result of the skimming found in this unfair labor practice complaint.”

University of Washington, Decision 13483-A (Wash. PERC 2022).

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