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AGO 1951 No. 174 - November 26, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

AUTHORITY OF PORT DISTRICTS TO PAY 1 - 1/2% OF WAGES UNDER THE FEDERAL SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM AND PARTICIPATE IN A UNION PENSION FUND

A port district under the provisions of Rem. Supp. 1943, § 9692, has the implied power to make contracts relating to wages, hours, vacations, etc., and may legally pay 1 ‑ 1/2% of wages under the Federal Social Security program and participate in a union pension fund without violating the provisions of Article II, § 25, and Article VIII, § 7 of the State Constitution.

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                                                               November 26, 1951

Honorable L. H. Bates
Commissioner
Employment Security Department
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 174

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of October 4, 1951, in which you request our opinion as to whether a port district may legally pay one and one‑half per cent of wages under the Federal Social Security Program and the 15 cents per hour for the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union-Pacific Maritime Pension Fund.

            It is our conclusion that contributions into both funds would be legal.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            A public port district must necessarily look to the union to furnish longshoremen and warehousemen in order to meet competition by other firms engaged in the same business.

            The union agreement requires that its members belong to its pension program and that contributions to this plan be made by the employer.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We have not been able to find any law which would restrict port district employees from becoming members of the Federal Social Security Program and a private pension plan, nor do we find any case which would preclude a port district from contributing to the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance and a private pension program.  The case ofChristie v. Port of Olympia, 27 Wn. (2d) 534, 179 P. (2d) 294, is the only case most nearly in point.

            In that case a controversy existed concerning longshoremen's wages.  An agreement was made between the manager of a port district and a local longshoremen's union that, if its members would continue to work after a specified date, the port would conform to the conditions of a contract between the international union and the employer's association as to the undetermined scale of wages to be paid for work done after such date.  The scale as subsequently determined by the war labor board, provided for increased compensation.  It was contended that such payments would be in violation of Article II, § 25, and Article VIII, § 7, of the State Constitution.

            The court pointed out that under the powers of a port district as provided for in Rem. Supp. 1943, § 9692, that the power to employ clearly includes the power to contract, and, as corollary to that, since longshoremen are absolutely necessary to carry on the functions of a port, we think a port necessarily has the implied power to make contracts relating to wages, hours, vacations, and so forth, as are customarily offered to longshoremen by its competitors in the same business.  That power will be given a rather wide latitude.  It was also held that such payments did not violate the provisions of Article II, § 25, and Article VIII, § 7, of the State Constitution.

            It is therefore our opinion that a port district may legally pay the one and one‑half percent of wages into the Federal Social Security Program and also pay the 15 cents per hour into the Union Pension Fund.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

BERNARD A. JOHNSON
Assistant Attorney General

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