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AGO 1965 No. 42 - September 28, 1965
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- CERTIFICATED EMPLOYEE ‑- EMPLOYEE ORGANIZATION ‑- REPRESENTATION

(1) The employee organization which receives a majority vote of the certificated employees in a representation election under § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, is the only employee organization having the right to represent the certificated employees before the board of directors of the district.

(2) Same:  Separate employee organizations may not obtain the right under § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, to represent various classes of certificated employees of a school district.

(3) Same:  Separate employee organizations may not obtain entitled to represent the certificated employees of a school district under § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, the organization must have a membership open to all classes of certificated employees of a school district with the exception of the chief administrative officer of the district.

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

                                                              September 28, 1965

Honorable Frank B. Brouillet
State Representative, 25th District
619 ‑ 7th Avenue S.W.
Puyallup, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 42

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on several questions relating to the professional negotiations law, chapter 143, Laws of 1965.  We paraphrase your question as follows:

            (1) Does the employee organization winning a majority in a representation election under § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, have the exclusive right to represent the certificated employees of a school district before the board of directors of the district?

            (2) May separate employee organizations obtain the right, under § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, to represent various classes of certificated employees of a school district?

            (3) In order to qualify as the employee organization entitled to represent the certificated employees of a  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] school district under § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, must the organization have a membership open to all classes of certificated employees of a school district with the exception of the chief administrative officer of the district?

            (4) If question (3) is answered in the negative on the basis of chapter 143, Laws of 1965, may an individual school district board of directors establish such a member ship requirement by rule or regulation?

            We answer question (1) in the affirmative as explained in our analysis; question (2) in the negative; and question (3) in the affirmative, thereby rendering consideration of question (4) unnecessary.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            During its last session, our legislature passed chapter 143, Laws of 1965, relating generally to the right of school district certificated personnel to confer and negotiate with their district's directors through use of a representative employee organization.  The purpose of this legislation was spelled out in § 1 as follows:

            "It is the purpose of this act to strengthen methods of administering employer-employee relations through the establishment of orderly methods of communication between certificated employees and the school districts by which they are employed."

            "Certificated employee" was defined by § 2 to mean:

            ". . . any employee holding a regular teaching certificate of the state and who is employed by any school district with the exception of the chief administrative officer of each local district."

            This same section also contained a definition of the term "employee organization" as follows:

            "'Employee organization' means any organization which includes as members certificated employees of a school district and which has as one of its purposes the representation of the employees in their employment relations with the school district."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Question (1):

            With this brief background, we may now turn to your first question, as above paraphrased.  With regard to representation of certificated employees before a school district board of directors, § 3 of the act provides as follows:

            "Representatives of an employee organization, which organization shall by secret ballot have won a majority in an election to represent the certificated employees within its school district, shall have the right, after using established administrative channels,to meet, confer and negotiate with the board of directors of the school district or a committee thereof to communicate the considered professional judgment of the certificated staff prior to the final adoption by the board of proposed school policies relating to, but not limited to, curriculum, textbook selection, inservice training, student teaching programs, personnel, hiring and assignment practices, leaves of absence, salaries and salary schedules and noninstructional duties."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            This is the only statute granting to any employee organization "the right" to represent the certificated employees of a school district.1/   Accordingly, to the extent that your first questions asks whether the employee organization winning a majority in a representative election under § 3,supra, becomes, thereby, the only employee organization  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] having a right to meet, confer and negotiate with the particular school district board of directors, we believe your question is clearly answerable in the affirmative.2/   Because of the public character of school boards, however, our conclusion should not be taken to mean that a board of directors may not meet or receive communications and suggestions on school policies from any interested organization, including other employee organizations or individual teachers.  Notably in this regard, § 5 of the act provides that:

            "Nothing in this act shall prohibit any certificated employee from appearing in his own behalf on matters relating to his employment relations with the school district."

            In our opinion neither this section nor any other provision of the act, either expressly or by fair inference, evidences a legislative intent to prohibit a school board from meeting and conferring with representatives of other (than the duly elected) employee organizations with regard to any subject under consideration and covered by § 3, supra, before arriving at a final decision on the matter.  However, it is clear that the school board cannot be compelled to do so.  Furthermore, no employee organization other than  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] the employee organization winning a majority at a representative election under § 3, supra, would have any right to invoke the mediation provisions of § 6 of the act.3/

             Question (2):

            In relation to your second question you have indicated that under current practice classroom teachers and administrators often belong to mutually exclusive employee organizations.  Your question is whether, under § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, supra, it would be possible for each of such mutually exclusive employee organizations to obtain the right to ". . . meet, confer and negotiate with the board of directors of the school district . . ." on behalf of their own members only.

            The general intent of the legislature as expressed in § 1, chapter 143, Laws of 1965,supra, gives no clear indication of the answer to your second question, since it appears that either approach to representation4/ would constitute an "orderly method" of communication.  However, as noted in response to question (1), both §§ 3 and 4 of the act provide that in order for representatives ofan employee organization to have the right of representation, the organization must "have won a majority in an election to represent the certificated employees within its school  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] district, . . ."  (Emphasis supplied).  These sections also speak of communicating the judgment of "the certificated staff."  In addition, § 65/ speaks in terms of "the employee organization."

            It is an elementary rule of statutory construction that effect must be given to every word so that no part will be inoperative or insignificant.  Danley v. Cooper, 62 Wn.2d 179, 381 P.2d 747 (1963).  Further, in the absence of a clear indication of intent to the contrary, the words used in a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning.  Crown Zellerbach Corp. v. State, 53 Wn.2d 813, 328 P.2d 884 (1958).  Applying these rules, it seems apparent that § 3, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, contemplates that only one organization is to have the right to represent all certificated employees of the district.  The application of these rules of literal construction appears consistent with the general, overall intent of the statute and does not produce a strained or absurd result.  We therefore conclude that separate employee organizations may not obtain the right to represent various classes of certificated employees of a school district.

            Question (3):

            From the proposition, above stated, that only one employee organization is to have the right to represent all certificated employees of a school district it follows, in our opinion, that the legislature intended that an employee organization, in order to qualify for this role, have a of the district with the statutory6/ exception of the chief administrative officer of the district.  Any other conclusion would potentially leave a portion of the district's certificated staff no voice in the major policy decisions of the group purporting to represent them‑-a result which we cannot believe was intended.

            In light of the answer given to your third question, we find if unnecessary to answer your fourth question.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

BRUCE W. COHOE
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Except in the case of a school district where there is a separate employee organization of certificated employees of a community college‑-in which case § 4, chapter 143, Laws of 1965, provides as follows:

            "If in any school district there is a separate employee organization of certificated employees of a community college, which organization shall, by secret ballot, have won a majority in an election to represent the certificated employees of the community college, the representatives of the separate aggregation shall have the right, after using established administrative channels, to meet, confer, and negotiate with the board of directors of the school district or a committee thereof to communicate the considered professional judgment of the certificated staff prior to the final adoption by the board of proposed school policies related to, but not limited to, curriculum, textbook selection, in-service training, student teaching programs, personnel, hiring and assignment practices, leaves of absence, salaries and salary schedules, and noninstructional duties."

2/Again, of course, with the exception of a school district in which there is a separate organization of community college certificated employees‑-see footnote 1, supra.

3/Section 6 provides as follows:

            "In the event that any matter being jointly considered by the employee organization and the board of directors of the school district is not settled by the means provided in this act, either party may request the assistance and advice of a committee composed of educators and school directors appointed by the state superintendent of public instruction.  This committee shall make a written report with recommendations to both parties within fifteen days of receipt of the request for assistance.  Any recommendations of the committee shall be advisory only and not binding upon the board of directors or the employee organization."

4/Representation by unit or class, or single organization representation.

5/See footnote 3, supra.

6/See definition of "certificated employee" in § 2, supra.

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