Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1971 No. 25 - Feb 16 1971
Attorney General Slade Gorton

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                                                                February 16, 1971
Department of Labor & Industries
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington 98501
                                                                                            Cite as:  AGLO 1971 No. 25 (not official)
Attention:  !ttMr. C. W. Ramage, Supervisor
            Industrial Relations Division
            By letter dated February 9, 1971, you requested the advice of this office on a question pertaining to the authority of a public employer covered by chapter 41.56 RCW (the public employees' collective bargaining act) to make retroactive salary adjustments to employees based upon a provision in the applicable collective bargaining agreement covering such employees which provides for such adjustments.
            In essence, as you have yourself recognized in your letter, this question has previously been considered by this office in AGO 51-53-66 [[to Gerald G. Dixon, State Senator on June 12, 1951]], copy enclosed.  See, also, AGO 53-55-93 [[to State Auditor on July 14, 1953]]and opinion dated May 5, 1952, to the Washington Toll Bridge Authority, copies enclosed, to the same effect.
            Each of these three opinions merely represented an application of a principle which was established by the Washington supreme court in the case of Christie v. Port of Olympia, 27 Wn.2d 534, 179 P.2d 294 (1947).  That principle is simply that where the employees of a public agency, having come to the end of a period covered by a wage agreement, nevertheless agree to continue to work during a time of negotiation of a new agreement in consideration for the commitment of their employer (once the new agreement has been finalized) to pay at the newly agreed upon wage level retroactive to the date of expiration of the earlier agreement, the payment of such retroactive wages does not violate either Article II, § 25 or Article VIII, § 7 or our state Constitution.
            This legal principle enunciated by the Washington court in 1947, has not since been departed from in any respect.  Accordingly, we affirm AGO 51-53-66 and the two  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] other enclosed opinions in which it was applied.1/   Based thereon, and assuming the existence of both a factual pattern and a contractual provision essentially similar to that which was involved in the Christie case, we may answer your present question in the affirmative.

            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/Notably, these three opinions, in so far as their reliance upon the Christie case is concerned, were also implicitly reaffirmed in our recent opinion of January 7, 1970, to State Representative Gary Grant, a copy of which you will also find enclosed.