SLO accused of unlawful bargaining in arbitration vote
April 30, 2012
A state agency assigned with administrating union bargaining laws has filed an unfair practices complaint against San Luis Obispo because of city officials alleged failure to meet and confer with members of the police union over binding arbitration. [Tribune]
In August, following a contentious battle over binding arbitration and benefits between San Luis Obispo and its safety workers, more than 70 percent of voters elected to end binding arbitration and to allow the city to change employee retirement benefits without seeking voter approval.
Binding arbitration, voted in by the public in 2000, entitled safety worker’s unions to bring in a third-party negotiator if labor talks were at an impasse. The city and the unions are then required to abide by the negotiator’s decision.
In mid-October, the Police Officers Association filed a claim with the Public Employment Relations Board contending the city used unfair negotiating practices in ending binding arbitration. A representative of the board agreed that the union’s allegations had merit and sent a complaint to the city.
City officials and union negotiators are slated to meet at an informal conference on June 5 to see it they can come to an agreement. If not, in September or October, a formal hearing will be set by the Public Employment Relations Board.
If wrongdoing by the city is confirmed at the hearing, the August vote to end binding arbitration could be overturned.
City attorney Christine Dietrick told the Tribune that the city acted legally and “in a manner that is consistent with both the letter and spirit of applicable labor relations laws.” A claim union members disputed prior to the August vote.
In May 2011, the police union requested a temporary restraining order against the city in order to stop the public from voting on binding arbitration because the union claimed the city council’s decision to put the cost saving measures on the ballot violated the law.
At the time, Dietrick argued that the ballot measures did not go against collective bargaining requirements that the city must abide by.
San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandell ruled in favor of the city of San Luis Obispo.