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AGO 1955 No. 126 - August 11, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Vacation provisions of chapter 140, Laws of 1955, are applicable to ferry system personnel covered by collective bargaining agreement.

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                                                                 August 11, 1955

Washington State Toll Bridge Authority
Transportation Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 126

Attention:  Mr. D. B. Hedges, Secretary

            You have requested the opinion of this office as to whether chapter 140, Laws of 1955, relating to annual leave for state employees, is applicable to personnel of the Washington State Ferries.

            In our opinion the answer to this question is "Yes".


            Section 1, chapter 140, Laws of 1955, amending RCW 43.01.040, provides in relevant part that

            "Each subordinate officer and employee of the several offices, departments, and institutions of state government shall be entitled under their contract of employment with the state government to not less than one working day of vacation leave with full pay for each  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] month of employment if said employment is continuous for six months.  * * *"  (Emphasis supplied)

            Even though personnel of the ferry system are paid from operating revenues, as are employees of the liquor control board, rather than from funds technically in the state treasury, we have no doubt that they are state employees within the contemplation of the quoted statute; because their employer, the toll bridge authority, is a state agency.  State ex rel. Pacific Bridge Co. v. Washington State Toll Bridge Authority, 8 Wn. (2d) 337, 340.  The phrase "offices, departments and institutions of state government" we think was intended by the legislature to encompass all the branches and divisions of state government without exception; and we see no logical basis for exclusion of the toll bridge authority, which was established to discharge a part of the state's duty to its citizens by providing necessary bridges and ferries.

            A possible distinction arises by reason of the fact that most of the operating personnel of the ferry system are covered by collective bargaining agreements negotiated with the authority pursuant to RCW 47.64.030 (1953 Supp.).  Those agreements, executed prior to the enactment of chapter 140, are consistent with the provision of RCW 43.01.040 as it stood before the 1955 amendment.  That amendment makes a more liberal arrangement for paid annual leave than the previous law.  It has been suggested that application of the terms of the new law to ferry system personnel covered by the existing collective bargaining agreements might constitute an impairment of contract, forbidden by Article I, § 23 of the Constitution.

            Such an application could not be construed to impair the rights of an employee under such an agreement.  Nor do we think it could be said to violate this provision of the constitution in that it altered some right of a state agency as an employer and party to such an agreement.  The legislature itself in enacting chapter 140 acted for the state, although the authority carries out legislative policies for the state on the executive level.  The purpose of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Article I, § 23, was to prevent the impairment by the legislature of rights accruing by contract to parties other than the state, whether such rights exist against the state or some other private party.

            We conclude that chapter 140, Laws of 1955, is applicable to personnel of the Washington State Ferries; and that it does not constitute an impairment of collective bargaining agreements between the authority and such personnel by reason of that application.  We hope that the foregoing analysis will prove helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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