Tuesday, March 17, 2020

PERB Clarifies MMBA Protects Union Members Who Send Emails to County Board of Supervisors Advocating for MOU Terms

Recently, the Public Employee Relations Board (“PERB”) ruled that a union representative engaged in MMBA-protected advocacy by sending e-mails to the County Board of Supervisors in order to persuade the Supervisors to direct the County to put “money on the table.”

In County of Tulare, Charging Party, v. Service Employees International Union Local 521, Respondent; Service Employees International Union Local 521, Charging Party, v. County of Tulare, Respondent 44 PERC ¶ 141, Tulare County filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”) violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”) by engaging in bad faith bargaining during negotiations for a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Specifically, the Tulare County claimed that SEIU unit representative Kermit Wullschleger lost the MMBA’s protection for advocacy when he sent several e-mails to the County’s Board of Supervisors advocating proposals that had already been made in prior negotiations. The county claimed this was an MMBA violation because it was “direct dealing.”

However, PERB did not find that Wullschleger’s behavior was an unfair labor practice. In fact, PERB clarified that: “an exclusive representative has a right to engage in direct and indirect advocacy with an employer’s elected and unelected officials, up to and including the employer’s highest levels, provided that the exclusive representative does not make new collective bargaining proposals that the exclusive representative has not already made in negotiations with the employer’s chosen bargaining team.”  As the PERB decision highlighted, the union was “well within its right to public advocacy.”

This is an important reminder that Union negotiations teams are permitted to directly advocate with their respective Board of Supervisors during contract negotiations.