Thursday, June 25, 2015

PERB Clarifies Jurisdiction Over "Mixed Unit" Associations with Peace Officer and Non-Peace Officer Members

In County of Santa Clara (2015) PERB Decision 2431-M, the Public Employment Relations Board  found PERB has jurisdiction over charges brought by labor associations representing mixed units.

This case involved the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents one bargaining unit, the Correctional Employees Unit.  That unit is composed of peace officers under Penal Code section 830.1(c) and non-peace officer correctional officers.  This type of unit is sometimes called a "mixed unit."

There has been a dispute about whether PERB has jurisdiction over charges brought by or against labor associations representing peace officers, but also other employee classifications. The reason there is a dispute is that Government Code section 3511, part of the MMBA, exempts "persons who are peace officers" from the 2001 changes to the MMBA that gave PERB jurisdiction over the Act. Some parties claimed this meant PERB does not have jurisdiction over claims brought by labor associations representing mixed units, since those units contain peace officers.  The Board heard oral argument on this issue two years ago, but that case settled before the Board issued a decision.

Since this case also involved a mixed unit, the Board clarified its jurisdiction over these units.  The Board wrote "we make explicit PERB's authority to hear charges, such as the present one, that are brought by employee organizations, including employee organizations representing or seeking to represent units including persons who are peace officers."

The Board explained, "MMBA section 3511 precludes jurisdiction only with respect to charges brought by peace officers, not employee organizations."  The Board found support for this distinction in the MMBA's own definition of person which refers to a natural person, distinguishing it from an entity, such as a labor association.  Likewise, the Board noted the Legislature gave it jurisdiction over factfinding requests without a restriction on mixed units.

Mastagni Holstedt senior associate Jeffrey R. A. Edwards represented the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association in the matter.