PERB finds strike preparations by Union, prior to exhaustion of impasse procedures, were “clearly protected” under EERA

On August 20, 2014, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) issued a decision in Sweetwater Union High School District (2014) PERB Order No. IR-58, in which it considered whether a Union’s threat to strike and strike preparations prior to exhausting impasse procedures violated the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA).  PERB found that the Union’s strike preparations did not violate EERA.

In this case, the Union’s strike preparation included the following:
-conducting meetings to urge a strike authorization vote
-taking a strike authorization vote
-informational picketing
-publicizing the dispute to the public

PERB held that these preparations for a future strike by the Union did not show that the Union was not negotiating in good faith.  Two significant points that demonstrated the Union’s good faith were: (1) the Union clearly stated that it did not intend to strike prior to impasse; and (2) during strike preparations, the Union continued to meet with the employer in mediation.

PERB also found that the strike preparations by the Union in this instance, including taking an authorization vote to engage in a strike, were “clearly protected” activity under EERA.  Such activity does not lose its protection simply because it may be effective in coercing or pressuring the Employer to make concessions.  In addition, PERB has recognized  that a Union has not necessarily engaged in “surface bargaining” just because it takes strike preparations prior to impasse.

For questions regarding this case or situations involving adverse employment actions, please contact your labor law counsel. 

By Rob Szykowny | September 10, 2014

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