The County of Calaveras's employer-employee relations ordinance provides that peace officers must be represented in separate units composed solely of such peace officers. Notwithstanding this rule, the County has long recognized a bargaining unit which included both non-safety and safety employees. SEIU filed an unfair practice charge alleging that the County violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA) by approving a mixed unit of non-safety and safety employees as requested in a severance petition filed by the Calaveras County Public Safety Employees Association (CCPSEA). In a case handled by Arlin Kachalia of our San Francisco office, the administrative law judge dismissed the charge and the PERB Board adopted the dismissal.
The MMBA authorizes a local agency to adopt reasonable rules and regulations for the administration of employer-employee relations as long as the rules and regulations do not frustrate the policies and purposes of the MMBA. If an agency's local rule conflicts with the MMBA, PERB will not enforce the rule.
The MMBA also states that an agency may not prohibit peace officers from joining or participating in employee organizations which are composed solely of those peace officers.
Here PERB noted that, while the MMBA grants peace officers the affirmative right to join in peace officer-only units, the MMBA does not require peace officers to exercise this right nor prohibit them from being in mixed units if they so choose. Because the County's local rule conflicted with the MMBA, PERB refused to enforce the local rule that would have precluded the mixed unit requested by CCPSEA.
A local agency's MMBA right to create its own employee relations rules is unique in California public sector collective bargaining law and very valuable. (Gov. Code § 3507.) This case is a good reminder that PERB will interpret the MMBA to provide employees the most freedom of choice.
SEIU Local 1021 v. County of Calaveras (2012) PERB Dec. No. 2252M [34 PERC ¶ ____].