PERB Decides Unions Have More Leverage To Bargain the Effects of Management Decisions 

In Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association v. County of Santa Clara (7/25/13), PERB Dec. No. 2321‑M, the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) overturned several prior PERB decisions to now make it easier for unions to bargain over the effects of management decisions.  The case involved an unfair practice charge by the Santa Clara Correctional Peace Officers Association (“Association”) against Santa Clara County (“County”).  The County reduced staffing of Correctional Officers at the main jail from 75 on-duty Officers to 65 on-duty Officers without providing advance notice to the Association.

In this case, PERB created a uniform standard and expectation that an employer will give notice and an opportunity to bargain over reasonably foreseeable effects of an employer’s decision within the scope of representation before implementing a managerial decision.  This expectation exists regardless of whether the decision itself is negotiable or whether only the effects of the decision are within the scope of representation.  PERB also provided rules or guidelines to help make this determination.

Prior to this decision, in some cases, PERB had analyzed unfair practice charges differently depending upon whether the employer’s policy change itself was negotiable, or whether only its effects upon wages, hours, and working conditions were negotiable.  In this case, PERB summarized that a unilateral change has a “destabilizing and disorienting impact on employer/employee affairs,” unfairly shifts community and political pressure to employees and their organization, reduces the employer’s accountability to the public, and is tantamount to requiring a union to bargain from a hole.

For more information about when a public employer must bargain over effects, or where an employer implements a change in policy or practice without providing the requisite notice and bargaining opportunity, contact your labor law counsel.

By Alan Crowley | August 7, 2013

Legal Developments