Last week, some Service Employees Union International 1021 members called me to tell me my article http://tinyurl.com/jkmpknq on how San Joaquin County will deal with future major disruptions at supervisors meetings wasn’t too sympathetic to their cause, and I’m erroneously making the county out to be the victim.
I was then told I was printing the whole story, because the county has allegedly refused to meet with the union after declaring an impasse in labor negotiations, and that’s the reason SEIU has disrupted supervisors meetings.
John Stead-Mendez, SEIU’s executive director, sent me five letters exchanged between the union’s legal team and the county’s legal team.
He also sent me a copy of the county’s ordinance with regards to declaring an impasse in negotiations, and said the county was in violation of it.
A Sept. 23 letter from the county’s legal team to the union’s legal team states both sides are at an impasse, and suggested a mediator might help negotiations as they progress.
In a Sept. 26 response letter, the union said it disagreed an impasse existed but it was willing to meet with a mediator, and requested mediation be scheduled within the week.
The union also contends because the county has steadfastily maintained its 6 percent raise over three years offer, that is unlawfully bargaining in bad faith.
It also called the county’s impasse declaration premature, which violates the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act – yet it wants to enter into the impasse procedure.
The county’s response on Oct. 3 said impasse proceedings can only be initiated after an impasse has been reached. The letter states that the union cannot ask for a mediation meeting until it agrees there is an impasse.
The union’s legal responded on Oct. 4, stating Section 12 (A)(1) of the county’s Employer-Employee Relations policy states the county or the exclusive representative must invoke the impasse procedure. The letter states that by the county claiming a deadlock exists, the county is the sole initiator of the process.
In addition, the letter states the Public Employees Relations Board would reject the idea that both parties have to agree a deadlock exists before entering into mediation.
Stead-Mendez also emailed me a copy of Section 12 (A)(1) of the county’s Employer-Employee Relations policy. It states:
“Only San Joaquin County or a recognized employee organization shall have the right to invoke the impasse procedure as herein described.”
Chapter 10 of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act defines a recognized employee organization as “an employee organization which has been formally acknowledged by the public agency as an employee organization that represents employees of the public agency.”
I don’t know about you, but to me, that means a union, not a county’s exclusive representative.
The MMBA also states that:
“If after a reasonable period of time, representatives of the public agency and the recognized employee organization fail to reach agreement, the public agency and the recognized employee organization or recognized employee organizations together may agree upon the appointment of a mediator mutually agreeable to the parties.”
I couldn’t find anything in the MMBA requiring both parties to agree a deadlock exists before entering into impasse procedures.
However, the PERB’s rules for impasse procedures – found here: perb.ca.gov/forms/imp.pdf – state that requests for impasse determination and the appointment of a mediator may be filed jointly or by either party.
So, it would appear that the union could invoke an impasse as well.
According to Section 12 (B) of the county’s employer-employee relations policy, either the county or the recognized employee organization shall initiate the impasse procedure by filing with the other party a written statement of impasse, together with a statement of position on the disputed issues.
It would appear the Sept. 23 letter is the county’s impasse statement and filing with the union.
SO, Section 12 (B) further states that within 5 days of receipt of said written notice, a joint meeting shall be scheduled and held.
To me, that sounds like the union should have proposed a meeting time and date. However, in its Sept. 26 response, the union’s legal team waived that joint meeting.
County Counsel Mark Myles said since the issuance of the Sept. 23 letter, both sides have been discussing a joint meeting with a mediator, but with no results.
There will be more to come in this saga, no doubt.