Monday, February 15, 2010

County Can Bargain Over Union's Support For Binding Arbitration Initiative

In DiQuisto v. County of Santa Clara (here), the Court of Appeal held that Santa Clara County did not violate Stanson v. Mott, 17 Cal. 3d 206 (1976), and its progeny, when it negotiated with a couple of employee unions over their potential support for an initiative that would have imposed binding arbitration on the county. The court held that the arbitration initiative was a permissible subject of bargaining under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, and that the county's discussion of the measure in collective bargaining was not impermissible electioneering.

One interesting fact about the case is that the parties spent a lot of time at trial trying to prove, or disprove, whether the county offered higher wages as a quid pro quo for the unions' "political silence" vis-a-vis the initiative (which failed at the ballot box). The trial court held that there was no quid pro quo, a finding which the court of appeal held was supported by substantial evidence. But why would it matter? If the initiative was a permissible subject of bargaining, as the court (correctly) held, the county can bargain about it, and quid pro quos, perceived or real, are part and parcel of the bargaining process. Focussing on the quid pro quo issue, while superficially appealing, seems to be a distraction from the real, and much more interesting, issues at stake.

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