SLO police union hopes to get binding arbitration vote overturned



San Luis Obispo’s largest police union filed a charge against the city, claiming the City Council unfairly upended established bargaining processes when it put binding arbitration to a public vote.

The San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association (SLOPOA) states in its claim to the Public Employment Relations Board that SLO City Council members violated “meet and confer” laws by deciding to place a labor negotiating practice called binding arbitration on the ballot without discussing the issue with the association.

Binding arbitration had been a simmering issue in city politics since it was enacted more than a decade ago. The process was triggered when the city and one of its safety unions reached an impasse during labor negotiations. A mediator then decided on the terms of the contract.

Voters overwhelmingly eliminated binding arbitration at the polls in August.

The Public Employment Relations Board regulates bargaining statutes covering California public employees in the state. If the board finds the city violated the law, it could levy a fine, but it couldn’t overturn the election.

“Ultimately I want to hold this council accountable to the law,” said Matt Blackstone, president of SLOPOA. “They are obligated to meet and confer, and [they did not do that]. I want someone on the outside to evaluate this.”

Blackstone said he wasn’t sure what the ramifications will be if the board makes a finding in favor of the union. If it were to favor the union, he said he’d like to take that decision into court and possibly get a judge to overturn the vote that eliminated binding arbitration.

“That’s one option,” he said. “That’s one of the potential consequences. It could be overturned … we realize the city has put us in an unwinnable position.”

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