Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo, AFL-CI

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtTOBRINER; WRIGHT
Citation116 Cal.Rptr. 507,526 P.2d 971,12 Cal.3d 608
Parties, 526 P.2d 971, 87 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2453, 75 Lab.Cas. P 53,473 FIRE FIGHTERS UNION, LOCAL 1186, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS,laintiff and Appellant, v. CITY OF VALLEJO et al., Defendants and Appellants. In Bank
Decision Date02 October 1974
Docket NumberAFL-CI,P,S.F. 23098

Page 507

116 Cal.Rptr. 507
12 Cal.3d 608, 526 P.2d 971, 87 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2453,
75 Lab.Cas. P 53,473
FIRE FIGHTERS UNION, LOCAL 1186, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CITY OF VALLEJO et al., Defendants and Appellants.
S.F. 23098.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Oct. 2, 1974.

[12 Cal.3d 610]

Page 508

[526 P.2d 972] Davis, Cowell & Bowe, Alan C. Davis and Roland C. Davis, San Francisco, for plaintiff and appellant.

Charles P. Scully, Donald C. Carroll, San Francisco, Bodle, Fogel, Julber, Reinhardt & Rothschild, George E. Bodle, Daniel Fogel, Stephen Reinhardt, Loren R. Rothschild and Lester G. Ostrov, Los Angeles, as amici curiae on behalf of plaintiff and appellant.

[12 Cal.3d 611] John M. Powers, City Atty., St. Sure, Moore, Hoyt & Sizoo and Ralph B. Hoyt, Oakland, for defendants and appellants.

Burt Pines, City Atty. (Los Angeles) Lawrence L. Hoffman, Asst. City Atty., John B. Rice and Bert Glennon, Jr., Deputy City Attys., John H. Larson, County Counsel (Los Angeles), Daniel C. Cassidy, Acting Chief Deputy County Counsel, Martin E. Weekes, Deputy County Counsel, Los Angeles, Richard S. Whitmore and Gillio & Whitmore, Sunnyvale, as amici curiae on behalf of defendants and appellants.

Page 509

TOBRINER, Justice.

In this case of first impression we must delineate the function of the court in interpreting a provision for arbitration in a city charter affecting public employees. Specifically we are asked, prior to the arbitration proceeding itself, to reconcile clauses which substantively overlap: a provision that grants city employees the right to bargain on 'wages, hours and working conditions' but withholds that right as to matters involving the 'merits, necessity or organization of any governmental service.' As we shall explain, our attempt now to define the issues of arbitration so that they assume the shape of rigid categories would be to reach premature judgments without benefit of the factual foundations of an arbitral record and to impede the arbitration process itself. We therefore largely leave to the arbitrators the moulding and resolution of the issues, subject to the proviso that neither party may be bound by a decision in excess of the arbitrators' jurisdiction.

In 1971, during negotiations between representatives of the City of Vallejo and the Fire Fighters Union as to the terms of a new contract, the parties failed to agree on 28 issues. Pursuant to the process prescribed in the city charter, they submitted the disputed matters to mediation and fact finding. When these procedures failed to effect a resolution, the city agreed to submit 24 of the issues to arbitration but contended that four other issues, namely, 'Personnel Reduction,' 'Vacancies and Promotions,' 'Schedule of Hours,' and 'Constant Manning Procedure,' involved the 'merits, necessity or organization' of the fire fighting service and did not come under the arbitrable provisions. The city refused to accept the recommendations of the fact finding panel with respect to these issues or to submit them to arbitration.

On December 22, 1971, prior to the scheduled hearing before the board [12 Cal.3d 612] of arbitrators, the Fire Fighters Union filed a complaint in the Solano Superior Court seeking mandate to compel the city to submit the four disputed issues to arbitration. The court found for the union on all the issues, stating: '(T)he evidence introduced here supports findings that the issues 'Reduction of Personnel,' 'Vacancies and Promotions,' 'Schedule of Hours' and 'Constant Manning Procedures,' are related to 'wages, hours and conditions of employment' . . .. (W)hile the issues might also apply to the exclusionary language 'but not on matters involving the merits, necessity or organization of any service or activity provided by law,' to so hold would be to defeat the overriding purpose of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and section 809 of the Vallejo charter, namely to provide peace and harmony with the city's public safety employees. The court cannot engage in judicial legislation and write into the Vallejo charter words or meaning that are not there.' The court therefore ordered that a peremptory writ of mandate issue directing the city to proceed to arbitration on the disputed issues. 1 The city appeals.

The present controversy therefore involves an interpretation of the Vallejo City Charter provisions which govern public employee contract negotiations. The provisions for multi-level resolution of disputes at issue were drafted by a board of freeholders for incorporation in a new city charter in response to a strike by city police and fire fighters in July of 1969. These proposals, with the exception of a provision for final binding arbitration,

Page 510

[526 P.2d 974] were accepted by the city council and embodied in section 809 of the city charter. Section 809 sets up a 'system of collective negotiating' and provides that city employees shall have the right to 'negotiate on matters of wages, hours and working conditions, but not on matters involving the merits, necessity, or organization of any service or activity provided by law. . . .' The section further provides that if the parties cannot reach agreement, they must submit successively to mediation and fact finding. 2

[12 Cal.3d 613] The arbitration provisions rejected by the city council were submitted to the citizens of Vallejo in a referendum in 1970 and approved. The electorate added to the city charter section 810 which provides that if representatives of the city and its employees do not reach agreement after the report of the fact finding committee under section 809, the issues upon which they fail to agree shall be submitted to binding arbitration. 3

[12 Cal.3d 614] The scope of bargaining provision in the Vallejo City Charter in large measure parallels

Page 511

[526 P.2d 975] that set out in the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (Gov.Code, §§ 3500--3510). 4 Government Code section 3504 reads: 'The scope of representation shall 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.' Therefore, interpretation of the scope of bargaining language in the Vallejo charter necessarily bears upon the meaning of the same language in the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act. 5

In the instant case, as we have stated, we are called upon to render a preliminary decision as to the scope of the arbitration. The arbitration process, however, is an ongoing one in which normally an arbitrator, rather than a court, will narrow and define the issues, rejecting those matters over which he cannot properly exercise jurisdiction because they fall exclusively within the rights of management. As Professor Grodin has observed: '. . . collective bargaining and issues arbitration are together a dynamic process, in which the positions of the parties and their interaction with the arbitrator is in a state of constant flux. Proposals get modified and non-negotiable positions become negotiable as the parties sort out their priorities, develop [12 Cal.3d 615] understanding of the implications of their positions, and perceive alternative solutions which they may not previously have considered. To determine what is arbitrable and what is not against this changing context is a bit like trying a balancing act in the middle of a rushing torrent.' (Grodin, California Public Employee Bargaining Revisited: The MMB Act in the Appellate Courts (1974) Cal.Pub.Employee Rel. No. 21, p. 17.)

To a large extent the rendition of the definitions involved in this case will be welded by the facts developed in arbitration itself. We put the proposition in these words in Butchers' Union Local 229 v. Cudahy Packing Co. (1967) 66 Cal.2d 925, 938, 59 Cal.Rptr. 713, 720, 428 P.2d 849, 856: 'Because arbitration substitutes for economic warfare the peaceful adjudication of disputes, and because controversy takes on ephemeral shapes and unforeseeable forms, courts do not congeal arbitration provisions into fixed molds but give them dynamic sweep.' We therefore must be careful not to restrict unduly the Scope of the arbitration by an overbroad definition of 'merits, necessity or organization.' Nor does this cautious judicial approach expose the city to an excessive assertion of the arbitrators' jurisdiction; the city council

Page 512

[526 P.2d 976] After the rendition of the award may reject any award that invades its authority over matters involving 'merits, necessity or organization' since the charter itself limits the scope of the arbitration decision to that which is 'consistent with applicable law.' 6

With this caveat in mind, we approach the specific problem of reconciling the two vague, seemingly overlapping phrases of the statute: 'wages, hours and working conditions,' which, broadly read could encompass practically any conceivable bargaining proposal; and 'merits, necessity or organization of any service' which, expansively interpreted, could swallow the whole provision for collective negotiation and relegate determination of all labor issues to the city's discretion.

In attempting to reconcile these provisions, we note that the phrase 'wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment' in the MMBA was taken directly from the National Labor Relations Act 7 (hereinafter[12 Cal.3d 616] NLRA). (See Grodin, Public Employee Bargaining in California: The Meyers-Milias-Brown Act in the Courts (1972) 23 Hastings L.J. 719, 749.) The Vallejo charter only slightly changed the phrasing to 'wages, hours and working conditions.' A whole body of federal law has developed over a period of several decades interpreting the meaning of the federal act's 'wages, hours...

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131 practice notes
  • Building Material & Construction Teamsters' Union v. Farrell, S.F. 24915
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 3, 1986
    ...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 ......
  • Cnty. of L. A. v. L. A. Cnty. Emp. Relations Comm'n, No. S191944.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 30, 2013
    ...authority for interpreting similar provisions of state law, including the MMBA. ( Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo (1974) 12 Cal.3d 608, 617, 116 Cal.Rptr. 507, 526 P.2d 971; see also Los Angeles County Civil Service Com. v. Superior Court (1978) 23 Cal.3d 55, 63–64, 151 Cal.Rptr. 547......
  • Regents of University of California v. Public Employment Relations Bd., S.F. 24803
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 3, 1986
    ...Cal.3d 648] Assn. v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 1 [154 Cal.Rptr. 893, 593 P.2d 838]; Firefighters Union v. City of Vallejo (1974) 12 Cal.3d 608, 616 [116 Cal.Rptr. 507, 526 P.2d 971.]." Page 663 III THE PROPER DISPOSITION OF THIS CASE With the meaning and intent of subdivision (f) clar......
  • Santa Clara Cnty. Corr. Peace S' Ass'n v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, H037418
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 17, 2014
    ...are topics subject to collective bargaining. The MOU also recognized this obligation. In Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo (1974) 12 Cal.3d 608, 116 Cal.Rptr. 507, 526 P.2d 971 (Vallejo ), the Supreme Court provided a framework for identifying the kinds of topics subject to bargaining ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
132 cases
  • Building Material & Construction Teamsters' Union v. Farrell, S.F. 24915
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 3, 1986
    ...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 ......
  • Cnty. of L. A. v. L. A. Cnty. Emp. Relations Comm'n, No. S191944.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 30, 2013
    ...authority for interpreting similar provisions of state law, including the MMBA. ( Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo (1974) 12 Cal.3d 608, 617, 116 Cal.Rptr. 507, 526 P.2d 971; see also Los Angeles County Civil Service Com. v. Superior Court (1978) 23 Cal.3d 55, 63–64, 151 Cal.Rptr. 547......
  • Regents of University of California v. Public Employment Relations Bd., S.F. 24803
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 3, 1986
    ...Cal.3d 648] Assn. v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 1 [154 Cal.Rptr. 893, 593 P.2d 838]; Firefighters Union v. City of Vallejo (1974) 12 Cal.3d 608, 616 [116 Cal.Rptr. 507, 526 P.2d 971.]." Page 663 III THE PROPER DISPOSITION OF THIS CASE With the meaning and intent of subdivision (f) clar......
  • Santa Clara Cnty. Corr. Peace S' Ass'n v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, H037418
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 17, 2014
    ...are topics subject to collective bargaining. The MOU also recognized this obligation. In Fire Fighters Union v. City of Vallejo (1974) 12 Cal.3d 608, 116 Cal.Rptr. 507, 526 P.2d 971 (Vallejo ), the Supreme Court provided a framework for identifying the kinds of topics subject to bargaining ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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