Sunshine Week Spotlight: Public Employee Bargaining Transparency Act
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Government transparency is absolutely critical for government accountability. The government that works best is the government that is accountable to the people. But, there can only be accountability when the public is aware of what the government does. Government transparency comes in many different forms, from making bills in the legislature easier to access to listing government expenditures. An often overlooked part of government transparency, however, is the process by which the actual agreements that the government makes with its own employees are determined.
As a public employer, the government will negotiate contracts with public employees, usually through a public employee labor union in a collective bargaining agreement. These negotiations set wage levels, pay increase schedules, pension agreements and a host of other issues that directly affect taxpayers. Since these collective bargaining agreements are negotiated by the government with public employees and directly affect government expenditures, it is crucial these proceedings be transparent – just like any other government meeting. Unfortunately, many states still do not require these agreements or negotiations to be available to the general public.Public Employee Bargaining Transparency Act. The act requires that all collective bargaining sessions between a public employer and its agent or labor organization be open to public observation. It also requires that the public be made aware of such sessions at least 24 hours in advance of the session taking place. Documents and draft or finalized collective bargaining agreements that come out of these sessions are also required to be open to public observation and available to the public through a website for easier access.
All levels of government should be open to public scrutiny, and taxpayers have a vested interest in ensuring that they are informed of government records, agreements and the expenditures that those entail. It is important that government officials making decisions about public employees are not shielded from public observation and scrutiny. By enhancing transparency, taxpayers are better able to keep their representatives accountable and ensure that the government is operating in their best interest.