Building Material & Construction Teamsters' Union v. Farrell

Decision Date03 April 1986
Docket NumberS.F. 24915
Citation224 Cal.Rptr. 688,41 Cal.3d 651,715 P.2d 648
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 715 P.2d 648, 121 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3479 BUILDING MATERIAL AND CONSTRUCTION TEAMSTERS' UNION, LOCAL 216, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. John C. FARRELL, as Controller, etc., et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Vincent J. Courtney, Jr., Davis & Reno, San Francisco, for plaintiff and appellant.

Stephanie M. Chang, Deputy City Atty., San Francisco, for defendants and respondents.

MOSK, Justice.

We must determine whether the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA) 1 requires local public agencies to "meet and confer" with representatives of a recognized employee bargaining unit before eliminating employment positions in that bargaining unit and reassigning the duties of those positions to employees outside the unit.

The relevant facts are not in dispute. One vacant, full-time position and one filled, part-time position in Class 7355, "Truck Driver," were deleted from the Laguna Honda Hospital budget for fiscal year 1980-1981 by the Department of Public Health of the City and County of San Francisco (DPH). At the same time, three new full-time positions in Class 7524, "Institutional Utility Worker," were added to the Laguna Honda budget. The duties of the eliminated truck driver positions were to be performed by the new utility workers. The truck drivers were in plaintiff union's bargaining unit, but the utility workers were not.

Antone Metaxas held the part-time truck driver position that was eliminated from the DPH budget. He was transferred to a full-time truck driver position at San Francisco General Hospital, but did not want that job because it would have forced him to give up lucrative part-time work as a longshoreman. He applied for and was granted a series of personal leaves from the new position. He did not report for work when his period of approved absence ended, and pursuant to civil service rules he was deemed to have resigned his position at San Francisco General as of December 15, 1982. He did not appeal this automatic resignation, lost his status as a truck driver on December 31, 1982, and was barred from future employment with the DPH.

Plaintiff was first notified of the disputed actions on September 8, 1980, after the DPH had deleted the one and one-half truck driver positions from its budget and had received approval from the mayor and the board of supervisors to create additional positions outside appellant's bargaining unit. September 8 was the same day the San Francisco Civil Service Commission approved the actions taken by the DPH.

On September 11, 1980, plaintiff filed a grievance on behalf of Metaxas, alleging that the DPH had improperly denied him the opportunity to retain his part-time position at Laguna Honda. The DPH refused to rehire Metaxas.

In the following months, plaintiff made requests of the Department of Public Health and the Civil Service Commission of the City and County of San Francisco to meet and confer about the elimination of the bargaining unit positions, the transfer of Metaxas, and the reassignment of truck driver duties to institutional utility workers who were outside the unit. The requests were denied on the ground these matters were not within the "meet and confer" obligations imposed on local agencies by the MMBA.

On April 13, 1983, plaintiff filed this action for a writ of mandate to compel defendants to restore the eliminated positions at Laguna Honda and to reinstate Metaxas in his former position with back pay. The court denied relief on the grounds that the MMBA's meet and confer requirements were not applicable to this type of employee reorganization and that the action was untimely. The Court of Appeal affirmed, basing its holding on the asserted inapplicability of the MMBA; it did not reach the issue whether the action was timely.

Plaintiff contends the MMBA required defendants to give prior notice of, and meet and confer about, three related actions: (1) the elimination of the truck driver positions at Laguna Honda; (2) the reassignment of truck driver duties to institutional utility workers, who were outside appellant's bargaining unit; and (3) the transfer of Metaxas to a full-time job at San Francisco General. Plaintiff argues that these actions were taken unilaterally and were therefore in violation of the MMBA.

Defendants contend these actions were not within the scope of the MMBA and could be ordered without giving notice to or conferring with the union. Defendants also argue that a provision of the San Francisco Charter granting to the civil service commission the right to reclassify employment positions is incompatible with and supersedes any provisions of the MMBA that require bargaining with employee representatives about these types of actions. Finally, defendant claims that plaintiff waived any bargaining rights it had concerning job reclassifications by private agreement.

We hold the notice and meet and confer requirements of the MMBA are applicable in this case, are not incompatible with provisions of San Francisco Charter, and were not waived by plaintiff.

I.

The MMBA has two stated purposes: (1) to promote full communication between public employers and employees, and (2) to improve personnel management and employer-employee relations. ( § 3500.) To effect these goals the act gives local government employees the right to organize collectively and to be represented by employee organizations ( § 3502), and obligates employers to bargain with employee representatives about matters that fall within the "scope of representation" ( §§ 3504.5, 3505).

Specifically, section 3504.5 provides that public agencies must give employee organizations "reasonable written notice" of any proposed "ordinance, rule, resolution, or regulation directly relating to matters within the scope of representation"; section 3505 provides that representatives of public agencies and employee organizations "shall have the mutual obligation personally to meet and confer promptly upon request by either party ... and to endeavor to reach agreement on matters within the scope of representation prior to the adoption by the public agency of its final budget for the ensuing year." (Italics added.)

It is clear that plaintiff was not given "reasonable written notice" prior to the employee reorganization at Laguna Honda Hospital, and defendants do not contend otherwise. Plaintiff's requests to "meet and confer" about the reorganization after it had been completed were also denied. The issue is therefore whether the reorganization was within the "scope of representation."

The recurrent phrase, "scope of representation," is defined in section 3504 to include "all matters relating to employment conditions and employer-employee relations, including, but not limited to, wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, except, however, that the scope of representation shall not include consideration of the merits, necessity, or organization of any service or activity provided by law or executive order." (Italics added.)

In construing the arguably vague, overlapping provisions of section 3504, we consider federal as well as California precedents. (Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo (1974) 12 Cal.3d 608, 616, 116 Cal.Rptr. 507, 526 P.2d 971.) Federal decisions have frequently guided our interpretation of state labor provisions the language of which parallels that of federal statutes. (Ibid; Social Workers' Union, Local 535 v. Alameda County Welfare Dept. (1974) 11 Cal.3d 382, 391, 113 Cal.Rptr. 461, 521 P.2d 453.) Here, the phrase "wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment" was taken directly from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (29 U.S.C. § 158 (d)). (Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo, supra, 12 Cal.3d at pp. 615-616, 113 Cal.Rptr. 461, 521 P.2d 453.) Although the NLRA does not contain wording similar to the second key phrase in section 3504--which excepts the "merits, necessity, or organization" of government services from the scope of representation--this phrase was added by the Legislature to incorporate the limitations on the scope of mandatory bargaining that had been developed by the federal courts in their interpretations of the NLRA. (Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo, supra, at p. 616, 113 Cal.Rptr. 461, 521 P.2d 453.) Thus, because the federal precedents reflect the same interests as those underlying section 3504, they furnish reliable authority in construing that section. (Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo, supra, at pp. 616-617, 113 Cal.Rptr. 461, 521 P.2d 453; San Jose Peace Officer's Assn. v. City of San Jose (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 935, 943, 144 Cal.Rptr. 638.) 2

For an action by an employer to fall within the scope of representation, and thus be subject to the mandatory bargaining requirements of the MMBA, it must have a significant effect on the "wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment" of the bargaining-unit employees. (Westinghouse Electric Corp. v. NLRB (4th Cir.1967) 387 F.2d 542, 548; see Fibreboard Corp. v. Labor Board (1964) 379 U.S. 203, 223, 85 S.Ct. 398, 409, 13 L.Ed.2d 233 (conc. opn. of Stewart, J.).) It is clear that the permanent transfer of work away from a bargaining unit often has a significant effect on the wages, hours, and working conditions of bargaining-unit employees. (See, e.g., Fibreboard Corp. v. Labor Board, supra, at pp. 209-211, 85 S.Ct. at pp. 402-403; Road Sprinkler Fitters Local U., etc. v. N.L.R.B. (D.C.Cir.1982) 676 F.2d 826, 833-834; Dublin Professional Fire Fighters, Local 1885 v. Valley Community Services Dist. (1975) 45 Cal.App.3d 116, 119, 119 Cal.Rptr. 182.) Courts have found violations of the duty to bargain, for example, when an employer has transferred bargaining-unit work to an independent contractor (e.g., Fibreboard Corp. v. Labor Board, supra, 379 U.S. at p. 209, 85 S.Ct. at p. 402; Amcar Division, ACF Industries, Inc. v. N.L.R.B....

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