This Washington

Gregoire Shows Off Mediation Chops

By Peter Johnson September 22, 2011

I just got off the phone with Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for Gov. Chris Gregoire. I was asking her some questions about the Governor's mediation work with the Tacoma teacher's union, whose members were on strike until today. Yesterday's Fizz predicted— correctly— that Gregoire would be able to close the gap between the two sides.

Shagren shied away from taking too much credit for the result—"The governor's role was to serve as an impartial mediator... she did her best to bring both sides together, [keep them] at the table and negotiate in good faith. She [just] wanted to reach an agreement last night and ensure students were in school as soon as possible."

I asked Shagren whether or not we could expect to see more interventions like this from the governor—her mediation chops are pretty impressive, and being perceived as an ace negotiator would certainly burnish Gregoire's reputation. But Shagren wasn't wild about that idea. "The governor's hope is that when there are labor issues, both sides can work it out on their own." Shagren said the Tacoma teachers' strike was a special case: "[We needed to] reopen classroom doors."

Of course, it could be that the main reason Gregoire doesn't intervene in labor (or other kinds of) disputes more often is that the risk-averse governor doesn't want to get stuck with the blame for a failed negotiation.
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