Wednesday, February 6, 2013

PERB Rejects Employer Claim Factfinding Is Limited to Impasse Over CBAs

In San Diego Housing Commission v. Public Employment Relations Board, San Diego Superior Court Case No. 37-2012-00087278, the Housing Commission claims mandatory fact-finding only applies to negotiations over a master collective bargaining agreement.  In a recent filing, however, PERB rejected the employer's claims and clarified that AB 646 applies to all collective bargaining disputes, not just impasse in collective bargaining agreement negotiations.  The case started after a union representing Housing Commission employees and the Commission reached impasse over the effects of a layoff.  The union requested factfinding and filed the appropriate paperwork with PERB.  The Commission then filed a lawsuit against PERB, trying to get a judge to order it not to process the request so it could impose without factfinding.

The Meyers-Milias-Brown Act gives unions the right to "request that the parties' differences be submitted to a factfinding panel."  (Gov. Code § 3505.4.)  In this case, the employer wants to add the words "about a master collective bargaining agreement" to qualify "differences" and limit the scope of mandatory fact-finding so that it can impose on the union without a neutral evaluation.  However, PERB explained to the Court that "an MOU is simply a written memorialization of the parties' agreement following negotiations on matters within the scope of representation."  The MMBA's requirement to meet and confer is not limited to collective bargaining agreements typically negotiated once a year or less frequently, indeed, as PERB noted, the term "collective bargaining agreement" does not even appear in the MMBA. Therefore, PERB argued, since factfinding applies to all disputes, "once an employee organization requests the parties' 'differences' be submitted to factfinding...participation in factfinding is mandatory."  The next hearing in the case is March 1, 2013.