Appeals Court: Factfinding Procedures Apply to All Bargaining Disputes
March 31, 2016
Signaling a major loss for local governments across the state, the Fourth District Court of Appeals issued two rulings that found factfinding procedures under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act must be applied to all bargaining disputes, not solely those disputes arising from comprehensive negotiations for a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
The cases came from San Diego Housing Commission v. Public Employment Relations Board and County of Riverside v. Public Employment Relations Board. The question arises in part from AB 646 (Atkins, 2012), which authorizes an employee organization, if a mediator is unable to effect settlement of a contract impasse within 30 days of his or her appointment, to request that the matter be submitted to a factfinding panel. The court’s decision states that “factfinding provisions apply to impasses arising during negotiation of any bargainable matter.”
The court’s decision was unanimous in its agreement with Public Employment Relations Board’s (PERB) rationale that factfinding must be applied to all bargaining disputes. Those reasons include, among others, that PERB already applies similar factfinding procedures to discrete bargaining impasses under two other statutes within PERB’s jurisdiction and the MMBA does not contain any language expressly limiting its factfinding procedures to only those impasses pertaining to comprehensive MOU negotiations.
The decision effectively clarifies that PERB is fully authorized to interpret the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA). Additionally, the court found that applying the provisions in this way would be consistent with other types of cases, the legislative history of AB 646, and the obligation to bargain on bargainable issues.
For counties and other local entities, this means that fact-finding can result from any disputes related to bargaining and, accordingly, expect delays in the implementation of bargaining agreements. The entities involved in the cases could choose to appeal to the California Supreme Court. CSAC will keep counties apprised of any additional movement on this issue.