A state agency representing the public employees’ collective bargaining rights has filed a complaint with the City of San Luis Obispo over last August’s ballot measure to repeal binding arbitration.
The complaint filed on April 13 by the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) on behalf of the city’s police officers’ union, alleges the city didn’t follow the law when it placed two measures on the ballot ending binding arbitration and allowing the city to draft a two-tier pension plan without voter approval.
“We have maintained from the very beginning, back in March of last year—we said the city had an obligation to meet and confer with us, and they said no,” said Alison Berry Wilkinson, attorney for the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association. “Now with PERB getting involved, we absolutely think that it’s a vindication.”
In August 2011, city residents overwhelmingly voted to overturn the previously approved process of binding arbitration, which involves bringing in a third-party mediator when labor negotiations reach an impasse.
The Police Officers Association filed a claim to PERB in October 2011 on the basis of a claim that the city used unfair labor practices in placing the measures on the ballot.
SLO City Attorney Christine Dietrick told New Times the city followed all laws in its dealings with the union and that she’s confident the voters’ decision will stand.
And though both sides agree that such a move on the part of PERB is rare, Wilkinson and Dietrick disagree over whether the agency even has jurisdiction to potentially invalidate the electorate’s decision.
“The contention that an administrative agency somehow would be able to overturn the voters’ [decision] is overreaching, in our opinion,” Dietrick told New Times.
Dietrick said an informal settlement conference is scheduled for June 5. If a settlement isn’t reached, the process would proceed to hearings. She added that it’s “unlikely” in this case that any settlement could come from the conference.
Wilkinson said that if the hearings favor the union but fall short of overturning the election results, it would at least give the union grounds to get the state Attorney General’s Office involved.