County clerks threaten to stop work over talks

Employees of the Snohomish County clerk’s office could bring Superior Court justice to a near standstill if they follow through on a threat to call a work stoppage that would affect businesswith judges, prosecutors, attorneys and the public.

The Snohomish County Clerks Association, which represents more than 70 county employees, overwhelmingly authorized the job action, president Michelle Strohrmann said Thursday.

“It’s not a strike,” Strohrmann said. “It means we will not be here. We won’t be picketing.”

The protest was threatened because of lack of progress in negotiating a labor contract with Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon’s office.

The association was formed in January 2005 after members broke off from a larger union of municipal employees. The clerks have been bargaining as a separate unit since March 2005, but Strohrmann said they are not satisfied with the progress.

The clerks already are required to pay considerably more for medical insurance than most other county employees.

Strohrmann said she is being deliberately vague about when a job action would happen, and if it would last more than a day or two.

No trials would be conducted if the clerks fail to show up, because state law requires a clerk in court for all proceedings, presiding Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne said.

Snohomish County Clerk Pam Daniels, the clerks’ boss, said she would have at least seven supervisory personnel on hand to conduct business. The office would have shorter hours, she said, but criminal hearings would continue in both adult and juvenile courts.

“For a short work stoppage, we could manage to conduct some business,” Wynne said.

But a lengthy one “could severely shut down court operations.”

Mark Soine, deputy county executive, said strikes of public employees are illegal in this state. “I can’t imagine the court clerks would engage in any work action that was illegal,” he said. “I’m disappointed if they would. We’re continuing the negotiation process.”

If the clerks all call in sick, Soine said it could call into question their personal and professional integrity.

Soine said the County Council has asked the executive’s office to continue negotiations.

The clerks and executive representatives have scheduled a mediation session for Thursday, Strohrmann said. She said nothing will happen until after that, and if anything does it will depend on whether contract progress has been made.

She said the county asked for the mediation session, and Strohrmann said she hopes that’s an indication of a change in the county’s posture. She also said the clerks have made numerous concessions in previous talks.

The clerk’s office is the hub of the county justice system. It receives civil and criminal lawsuits, tends to evidence in trials and accepts court-ordered payments of restitution.

Strohrmann said the clerks have filed several complaints alleging that the county has not bargained in good faith. The state Public Employment Relations Commission is expected to start hearings on those complaints in the summer. The same state commission authorized mediation late last year.

“We’ve been bargaining with the county for over a year, and the contract progress is becoming regressive,” Strohrmann said. “They haven’t bargained in good faith with us, and there is nothing else we can do at this point.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin gives an address to the city council of her proposed 2024 budget at the Everett Police Department North Precinct in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett mayor presents balanced budget for 2024; future deficit looms

If approved by the City Council, the $438 million budget will fund more police staff, parks and infrastructure.

One of Snohomish County PUD’s new smart readers is installed at a single family home Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
PUD program seeks to make energy grid smarter for 380K customers

The public utility’s ConnectUp program will update 380,000 electric meters and 23,000 water meters in the next few years.

Ian Terry / The Herald A needle is picked up by a volunteer helping to clean Wiggums Hollow Park in Everett on Saturday, March 17. Photo taken on 03172018
Everett police target public drug use, netting 84 arrests since July

A review of dozens of jail booking records showed the vast majority of those defendants usually spent two days or less in jail.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers speaks to the crowd during an opening ceremony at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
County releases $114.5M housing, behavioral health plan

The five-year plan would fund 700 affordable housing units and more diverse behavioral health options in Snohomish County.

Most Read