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City Reasonably Interpreted Its EERR To Process A Decertification Petition
From 2016 to 2020, the Long Beach Supervisors Employees Association (LBSEA) exclusively represented the Skilled & General Supervisor Unit (Supervisor’s Unit) at the City of Long Beach. However, in July 2020, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 47 (IBEW) filed a decertification petition and an accompanying proof of support seeking to represent the unit. IBEW submitted its petition on letterhead bearing the address and telephone number of its Diamond Bar office. IBEW also attached two nearly identical lists of classifications to its petition; but, each list included one classification not listed in the other. According to the IBEW petition, LBSEA no longer had majority support among employees in the Supervisors Unit, and approximately 67% of unit employees had signed cards authorizing IBEW to represent them. On two of the 64 cards, the IBEW union number was missing. Only the number “47” was listed on one of the two cards.
The City’s Employer-Employee Relations Resolution (EERR) details the City’s processes for establishing appropriate bargaining units, and formally recognizing exclusive bargaining representatives. In order to establish a bargaining unit, the EERR requires a recognition petition to “indicate by classification the unit of employees claimed to be appropriate” and be “accompanied by proof of employee approval of no less than thirty percent (30%) of the employees in the proposed unit.” Proof of support may be in the form of a signed authorization card; a verified authorization petition; or employee dues deduction authorizations.
Similarly, under the EERR, a union may also file a petition that the incumbent union no longer represents a majority of the employees in its bargaining unit. Like the recognition petition, this decertification petition must be accompanied by “written proof that at least 30% of employees in the unit do not desire to be represented by the formally recognized employee origination.” The decertification petition must also include the petitioner’s name, address, and telephone number; the name of the incumbent union; and a statement that the petitioner shall agree to abide with any existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covering said employees. A decertification petition can only be filed during certain time periods before the expiration of an MOU. Pursuant to the EERR, the employer is required to post notice of the petition in employee areas and the question concerning representation created by a valid decertification petition is decided through a secret ballot election.
On July 15, 2020, the City concluded IBEW had submitted a decertification petition that complied with the requirements of the EERR. The City’s Labor Relations Manager subsequently notified IBEW and posted a notice. Along with the notice, the Labor Relations Manager posted a list of all classifications in the Supervisors Units; that list included 14 classifications that were not on either of the lists IBEW had attached to its petition.
Subsequently, LBSEA filed an unfair practice charge against the City alleging, among other claims, that the City unlawfully accepted the Petition even though IBEW deviated from the procedure established in the City’s EERR. After an evidentiary hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) concluded that the City violated its EERR, the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), and Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) Regulations by: 1) applying a rule concerning revocation of proof of support that was not contained in the EERR; and 2) disclosing to IBEW the identity of two employees who had sought to revoke their support for the Petition. However, the ALJ ruled in the City’s favor as to the other allegations in the complaint and dismissed the claims. LBSEA filed exceptions regarding those dismissed claims. PERB then reviewed the ALJ’s proposed decision.
First, LBSEA argued that because IBEW failed to include a statement it would abide by any existing MOU covering bargaining unit employees and failed to properly describe the Supervisors Unit, the City improperly approved the petition. PERB disagreed. Instead, PERB concluded that this missing information was “immaterial” and the EERR did not require an exhaustive list of classifications included in the unit. In addition, PERB noted IBEW exercised due diligence in attempting to determine the classifications in the Supervisors unit, both by examining the City’s website and submitting a CPRA request. When these efforts led to slightly different lists, IBEW attached both lists in an abundance of caution. For these reasons, PERB concluded the City reasonably approved IBEW’s petition.
Second, LBSEA alleged that IBEW filed it petition outside the period specified in the EERR. However, PERB determined the City reasonably interpreted the EERR provision as applying only when an MOU is in effect. Because no MOU was in effect on July 13, 2020, the City reasonably concluded that the EERR did not bar the petition.
Third, LBSEA contended the City was required to reject IBEW’s authorization cards because they only stated that the signatory employees wanted IBEW to represent them, without mentioning the decertification of the incumbent representative. Once again, PERB disagreed. PERB reasoned that under the EERR, authorization cards designating a petitioning union to represent them in their employment relations with the City provides sufficient evidence that the employees wish to both decertify and replace their exclusive representative. Thus, IBEW’s proof of support complied with the EERR.
Finally, LBSEA argued PERB should cancel future election proceedings. However, because the violations LBSEA established were so limited, PERB concluded they would not tend to prevent a fair election going forward. For these reasons, PERB affirmed the ALJ’s proposed decision.
City of Long Beach, PERB Dec. No. 2771-M (June 9, 2021).
Following its decision, PERB ordered the City to process the petition filed by IBEW and post the notice for Supervisors Unit employees.