Labor Law Frequently Asked Questions
What is the law that governs these negotiations?
The County negotiation process is generally governed by state law, specifically, the Meyers-Milias Brown Act (MMBA), California Government Code Section 3500 et seq.
Who administers the law?
The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has exclusive initial jurisdiction over any alleged violations of that law(with the exception of those relating to peace officers as defined by Penal Code Section 830.1 and management employees), including any failure of a public agency or a union to bargain in good faith. The means of enforcement begins with the filing of an Unfair Practice Charge with PERB
What must be negotiated with the unions?
The MMBA requires the County and a recognized union to “meet and confer in good faith over wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.”
What falls under “terms and conditions of employment?”
This has been the subject of litigation over the years, and numerous cases more precisely define the scope of bargaining. Generally, the County does not have to bargain with the unions about management decisions, the types and level of County services, or the mode of delivery of those services.
What happens if the County and a union are unable to come to an agreement?
If negotiations reach impasse (the inability to reach agreement through bargaining), a mediator may be used to assist the parties with the dispute. Also, if the union requests, the parties will enter into mandated fact-finding process, where the dispute will be submitted to a three-member panel for an informal hearing. The results and recommendations of the fact finding panel are then made public, and are advisory to the negotiating parties. With a few exceptions, the County is free to unilaterally adopt its last, best and final offer to a union after exhausting any mediation and fact finding procedures (See Gov. Code Sections 3505.34 through 3505.7.)
What is the County’s legal obligation to allow employees time off from work to participate in negotiations?
In accordance with Government Code Section 3505.3, the County is required to “allow a reasonable number of public agency employee representatives of recognized employee organizations reasonable time off without loss of compensation or other benefits when they are formally meeting and conferring with representatives of the public agency on matters within the scope of representation.”
What is the considered a “reasonable” number of public agency employee representatives for purposes of release time?
What is considered reasonable depends on the specific facts at the agency. In cases decided by PERB, relevant factors used to determine what is reasonable include the historical practice at previous negotiations, operational impacts caused by employees not being at work, the total number of represented employees, the complexity of negotiations, the reasonable needs of the employee organization, and the progress of negotiations.
Who decides the number of representatives to release for bargaining?
Release time is subject to negotiations between the County and the exclusive representatives. The number of released employees is normally included in the ground rules for negotiations. This is typically the first agreement that is negotiated at the start of bargaining. It covers rules for how the parties will work together including dates, location, agenda setting, note taking, and release time.