Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1955 No. 13 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


 The Washington Toll Bridge Authority has implied power to negotiate pension benefits for the employees of Washington State Ferries.

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                                                                 January 21, 1955

 Mr. F. J. McDowell
Washington State Ferries
Colman Dock
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 13

 Dear Sir:

             You have requested the opinion of this office on the following question: Can the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority make contributions to pension funds for employees of the Washington State Ferries?

             We answer affirmatively.


             RCW 47.64.030 (1953 Supp.) provides in relevant part as follows:

             "The authority is empowered to negotiate and to enter intolabor agreements with its employees or their representatives,including provisions for health and welfare benefits for its employees to be financed either wholly or in part by contributions from the operating fund.  * * *"  (Emphasis supplied)

             Although there is no express power to make contributions for pension purposes, the mention of health and welfare benefits as items which may be included in  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] such labor agreements sets the tenor of the authorization and we think indicates that the legislature intended to permit the Toll Bridge Authority to bargain on approximately the same basis as a private employer.  Very probably, the term "labor agreements" would imply as much by itself.

             Thus, Inland Steel Co. v. N.L.R.B., 170 F. (2d) 247 (1948), holds that a statute which requires an employer to bargain collectively with his employees' representatives with respect to "rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other condition of employment" contemplated in addition bargaining on retirement and pension plans.

             In Christie v. Port of Olympia, 27 Wn. (2d) 534, 550 (1947), the court, while acknowledging that a port district has no express power to negotiate employment contracts, made the following statement:

             "* * * 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.  * * *"

             In an opinion sent to the Employment Security Department, dated November 26, 1951, AGO 51-53 No. 174 (a copy of which is attached), we held that a port district could legally make payments into union pension funds, citing the Christie case.  This is merely a question of the form in which wages are paid.

             From what has been said, we think that the Toll Bridge Authority may make contributions to an employees' pension fund, pursuant to a labor agreement negotiated under RCW 47.64.030 (1953 Supp.) with employees of the Washington  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] State Ferries.

             We hope the foregoing will prove to be of assistance to you.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General