Big Win for Unions in the California Supreme Court:  Public Agencies Must Arbitrate Grievances Over Furloughs

California public sector unions scored a significant victory in the California Supreme Court in City of Los Angeles v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (2013), Case No. S192828.  The Court made two important rulings in the case.  First, the Court held that arbitration of a grievance over furloughs is not an unlawful delegation of the city’s salary-setting and budget-making authority to the arbitrator.  Second, the Court held that the City was required to arbitrate the Union’s grievance over furloughs.

The facts of this case are straightforward.  The City declared a financial emergency, and passed an ordinance requiring employees to take furloughs.  The Union filed a grievance, alleging that the mandatory furlough program violated the parties’ MOU, specifically the provisions regarding hours of work and salary schedules.  The Union requested to arbitrate the grievance.

The City refused to arbitrate.  The City argued that giving an arbitrator the power to decide whether the furlough program violated the MOU would unlawfully delegate to the arbitrator powers that the City charter gives to the city council—salary-setting and budget-making authority.  The Court rejected this argument.  Arbitration of the dispute would not involve the delegation to the arbitrator of the city council’s discretionary powers to set salaries or make budgets.  Instead, the arbitrator would interpret terms which the City has already agreed to in the MOU.

You can read the entire decision here.

By Sean Graham | June 24, 2013

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