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AGO 1961 No. 7 - January 31, 1961
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM ‑- COVERAGE OF EMPLOYEES OF THE WASHINGTON STATE FERRY SYSTEM UNDER INITIATIVE NO. 207

Employees of the Washington state ferry system are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Washington state personnel department created by Initiative No. 207.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                 January 31, 1961

Mr. D. B. Hedges
Executive Secretary
Washington Toll Bridge Authority
Transportation Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 7

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Are the employees of the Washington state ferry system subject to the jurisdiction of the Washington state personnel department?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Initiative No. 207, which created the Washington state personnel department and provided for a comprehensive civil service system, expressly exempted certain state employees from its provisions.  Section 4 (2) which reads as follows:

            "The provisions of this act apply to:

            ". . .

            "(2) Each agency, and each employee and position therein, not expressly included or exempted under the provisions of section 7 of this act."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            would appear to require that the express exemption of an agency or employee be found in section 7 of Initiative No. 207.  As we stated in AGO 59-60 No. 171 [[to Sam Smith, State Representative on December 30, 1960]], these provisions must be construed in favor of coverage of employees in order to effect the obvious intent of the people in enacting the initiative.

            In answering your question we are not in any way reconsidering that statement.  We are instead attempting to ascertain the intent of the people as expressed in Section 29 of Initiative No. 207 as set forth below.  InGozzam v. Building Service, Etc., 29 Wn. (2d) 488, 499, 188 P. (2d) 97 (1947), our court adopted the following language:

            "'To ascertain the intent of the legislative body that enacted a statute is the fundamental rule for its judicial construction.  When the purpose of an act is expressed in clear and unambiguous terms, this must be accepted as the solemn declaration of the sovereign. . . .'"

            Section 29 of the initiative reads as follows:

            "Nothing in this act shall be interpreted as changing the provisions of or affecting the conditions of employment for personnel covered by chapter 47.64 RCW."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Chapter 47.64 RCW establishes a maritime commission which in turn

            ". . . shall have the authority to administer labor relations and to adjudicate all labor disputes . . ."  RCW 47.64.030

            RCW 47.64.030 also empowers the Toll Bridge Authority to enter labor agreements with their employees and their representatives.  As our court stated inChristie v. Port of Olympia, 27 Wn. (2d) 534, 179 P. (2d) 294 (1947):

            ". . . Clearly, the power to employ 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 such contracts relating to wages, hours, vacations, and so forth,as are customarily offered to longshoremen by its competitors in the same business. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)  (p. 550)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            RCW 47.64.030 also authorizes ferry employee representatives to represent these employees in all respects before the commission to negotiate theterms and conditions of employment and in the settlement of labor disputes.

            RCW 47.64.040 provides for appeal of labor disputes to the commission and makes the commission's orders and awards binding upon employees, their representatives and the Toll Bridge Authority.

            Chapter 47.64 RCW grants the Toll Bridge Authority power to enter into comprehensive labor agreements suchas are customarily offered by similar employers and provides for the settlement of any labor disputes by appeal to the commission, whose orders and awards are final.  We are informed that the Toll Bridge Authority has entered into such labor agreements for some time.

            In our opinion the intent of the people as expressed in Section 29 of Initiative No. 207 was to preserve this system whereby comprehensive labor agreements are negotiated and labor disputes adjudicated under the Marine Employees Commission.  If the ferry employees were to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Washington state personnel department the effect would be to change the provisions of or affect the conditions of employment for personnel covered by Chapter 47.64 RCW.  We therefore answer your question in the negative, and conclude that the employees of the Washington state ferry system are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Washington state personnel department.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,


JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


R. TED BOTTIGER
Assistant Attorney General

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