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.


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12 Comments

  1. rogerfreberg says:

    The local courts ruled in favor of a large local entity… and are you really surprised?

    If possible, many folks try to go to court out of county when taking on a large bureaucratic behemoth. Others try to win on appeal ( again, out of county) and often do.

    Here’s another good example where a change in local government would be good for the city’s soul.

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  2. msminiver says:

    So the labor board has determined that the union’s allegations had merit, some surprise there. It is no surprise that the City attorney continues to profess innocence that no wrong doing has occurred, since if it is determined that the City violated the Brown Act and negotiated in bad faith then who is the likely suspect of guilt – ah yes, the City attorney. How, many stories have to appear in the news for people to realize that something is not kosher at City Hall? The Board wouldn’t remand a complaint over to a hearing unless the evidence was clear and convincing. So we as tax payers spent $83,000 for a vote just to have it over turned because of questionable conduct by our City leaders, just brilliant. Maybe they should deduct the cost of this entire fiasco from their salaries!

    (20) 24 Total Votes - 22 up - 2 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      THANK YOU, Mrs. M.

      The State is mighty picky about what issues it wants to get involved in. They don’t intervene unless it’s a pretty sure bet something wrong has been going on. Look how bad it had to get in the City of Bell before the State Controller was allowed to step in

      (12) 16 Total Votes - 14 up - 2 down
  3. bobfromsanluis says:

    In reading both this article and the one at the Tribune, it seems that if the city had simply followed the law that required that the city meet with the union to discuss the issue of putting the binding arbitration up to a vote of SLO citizens, the city would be able to produce evidence of their complying with the law. Since they not yet produced that evidence, the PERB would have no involvement with the city or the union. The city claims that they followed the law, but have not come forth to prove that; isn’t that kind of like a person being in a court of law for refusing to be tested for DUI; guilt by refusing to comply? If a person hasn’t been drinking is pulled over for DUI, why wouldn’t they prove they weren’t intoxicated? If the city followed the law and actually met with the union, why don’t they show the evidence to prove that? I’m not certain that the vote on binding arbitration should be overturned, but the city needs to be held accountable for not following the laws regarding employee negotiations.

    (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      ITA, Bob. Whether or not I agree with the voters’ decision isn’t the point. The point is that SLO City did not follow the requirements before sending it out for a vote.

      In addition, it is very clear if they met with the union before sending the measure out for a vote, they would be able to produce evidence…which they have not.

      What do you know….the City of SLO officials aren’t as special as they think they are. They really DO have to follow regulations.

      (4) 16 Total Votes - 10 up - 6 down
  4. slocorruptionhater says:

    It is time to open negotiations with CalFire and the Sheriff Department.

    (-4) 20 Total Votes - 8 up - 12 down
    • Crusader says:

      I’m not so sure about CalFire. I think it might be time to privitize fire/emergency services though, much like ambulance and security services are today.

      The City of Los Angeles has its own ambulances that follow around fire engines. The cost is crippling. LA wants to contract for ambulance services (as they do here in SLO.) The LAFD is chanting the same chant they use up here — “people will die, people will die.” Buncha malarkey.

      Privatize it all.

      (-9) 15 Total Votes - 3 up - 12 down
  5. Slowerfaster says:

    Surprise, surprise, surprise ! The “city officials” did not follow the rules. The same one that invoked a pay freeze for everyone else, but then gets awarded a 3.5% hike for “performance” ?
    Well I guess when you can write your own rules like a petit dictator, you also can give yourself A’s .

    (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
  6. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    I love the way things work. The voters vote this in and that is fine by everybody. The voters decide to vote it out and now you can’t. UNREAL!!! Here is a reason why people should not be so eager to vote in new laws. They always vote in easy but take and act of God to get rid of.

    Here is why are Country is going no place and locked up. We the people who should and use to control everything are told by politicians, lawyers and judges that our say only matters in things being implimented but don’t have the same bearing in reverse. And the politicians, lawyers and judges wonder why we John Q public have such a high distain for them.

    (13) 31 Total Votes - 22 up - 9 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      BTDT, the issue isn’t the outcome of the vote.

      The issue is SLO City’s failure to follow regulations and procedures before sending it out for a vote.

      We cannot simply pick and choose the regulations we follow, depending on whether or not we agree with the outcome.

      SLO City screwed up–not the union–and SLO City is trying to spin things so that the union and its members get the blame.

      (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
      • BeenThereDoneThat says:

        Mary the issue is the vote!!!!! They wouldn’t even be argueing about this if the voters hadn’t voted it in right? So if the voters can vote in binding arbitration why in the heck can’t they vote it out?

        (-7) 13 Total Votes - 3 up - 10 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          Have you actually read the articles about this issue?

          SLO City failed to follow the rules involved in taking it to a vote. Therefore, the vote is invalid.

          It was an illegal vote–as would be any vote where the regulations directing the voting process were ignored. Just like if, instead of having the current counting process, the City of San Luis Obispo decided that they would let their Mayor and City Council count the votes, in secret.

          (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down

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