State of California (Department of Personnel Administration) (2010) PERB Dec. No. 2130-S (Issued on 9/20/10)
The State of California (State) and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) were parties to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a term of July 1, 2001 through July 2, 2006. Negotiations for a successor MOU reached an impasse in May 2007. Mediation was unsuccessful and in September 2007 the State notified CCPOA that it was implementing its last, best, final offer (LBFO) pursuant to Government Code 3517.8.
CCPOA then filed this unfair practice charge alleging, among other allegations, that the State unlawfully imposed its LBFO for a three-year term. The State denied that it implemented its LBFO for any set duration. Based on the evidence, PERB agreed with the State and dismissed the charge. However, PERB went on to hold that even if the State had imposed a “term” on its LBFO, that in itself was not unlawful. Citing to Rowland Unified School District (1994) PERD Decision No. 1053, PERB held that, “an employer may lawfully implement a term of agreement provision contained in its LBFO because such a provision, standing alone, does not act as a waiver of the union’s bargaining right for the specified period.” What is prohibited is imposing a waiver on the union; in essence, refusing to bargain during the term imposed. Here, PERB found that the State never indicated that it was refusing to bargain going forward. Accordingly, PERB held that even if the State had imposed a term of three years on its LBFO, that by itself was not an unfair practice.
- In this decision, PERB has clarified that under the Dills Act, imposing a term on a LBFO is permissible as long as the employer remains willing to bargain during that term should impasse be broken.
- Is this decision applicable to the other acts administered by PERB? I don’t see any reason why the rationale in this case wouldn’t also apply under EERA and HEERA. The MMBA, however, presents a more difficult question. Under the MMBA, upon impasse an employer may impose its LBFO but “shall not impose a memorandum of understanding.” (Gov. Code 3505.4.) This is commonly understood to mean that an employer cannot impose a set term on its LBFO whereby the employer refuses to bargain during that term—an interpretation that is consistent with this decision. However, the provision in the MMBA that an employer “shall not impose a memorandum of understanding” could be interpreted to mean that an employer cannot impose any term at all, regardless of whether or not the employer stands ready to bargain.
- Practically, there really isn’t a difference between imposing a LBFO without any term versus imposing a LBFO with a term but being willing to bargain at any time. The latter is essentially imposing a contract with a re-opener that can be triggered by the union at any time—it basically renders the term provision meaningless.