Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agric. Labor Relations Bd.

Decision Date24 September 2019
Docket NumberF076148, F076150
Citation40 Cal.App.5th 241,253 Cal.Rptr.3d 136
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties GERAWAN FARMING, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. AGRICULTURAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Defendant and Respondent; Lupe Garcia, Intervener and Appellant.

Irell & Manella, David A. Schwarz, Los Angeles, Grace Chuchla ; Georgeson & Belardinelli, C. Russell Georgeson, Fresno; and Michael P. Mallery, Fresno, for Plaintiff and Appellant, Gerawan Farming, Inc.

Sagaser, Watkins & Wieland and Paul J. Bauer, Fresno, for Intervener and Appellant, Lupe Garcia.

Santiago Avila-Gomez and Todd M. Ratshin, for Defendant and Respondent.

DE SANTOS, J.

After agricultural employer Gerawan Farming, Inc. (Gerawan) and the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) failed to agree on the terms of an initial collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (Board), at the UFW's request, ordered the parties to "mandatory mediation and conciliation" (MMC) under the MMC statutory scheme, Labor Code section 1164 et seq.1 In the MMC process, the parties present their disputed and undisputed issues to the mediator, who takes evidence and hears argument on the disputed issues in recorded proceedings, but retains discretion to go off the record at any time to clarify or resolve issues informally. ( Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 20407, subd. (a)(2).)2 After the mediation period expires, if the parties do not "resolve the issues to their mutual satisfaction," the mediator submits a "report" to the Board that resolves all of the parties' issues and establishes the CBA's final terms. The grounds for the mediator's determination of disputed issues must be stated in the report and supported by the record. ( § 1164, subds. (c) & (d).) When the report becomes the Board's final order, it establishes the terms of an imposed, binding CBA. (§ 1164.3, subds. (a)-(e).)

Four mediation sessions were held, two of which were on-the-record sessions in which witness testimony was transcribed by a court reporter. Lupe Garcia (Garcia), a Gerawan employee, attempted to attend and observe an early MMC proceeding, but the mediator denied his request. Garcia asked the Board to decide whether he and other Gerawan employees had the right to attend on-the-record MMC proceedings under the federal and state Constitutions. The Board issued a decision in which it held the public does not have a constitutional right to attend MMC proceedings. (Gerawan Farming, Inc. (2013) 39 ALRB No. 13.) Gerawan filed a declaratory relief action in superior court, seeking a judicial declaration that the Board's decision violates the right of public access protected under the federal and state Constitutions. Garcia intervened in the same action and filed a complaint in intervention seeking the same relief.

In this appeal by Gerawan and Garcia,3 we are called to review simultaneous summary judgment motions filed by Gerawan, Garcia, and the Board, on the issue of whether there is a public right of access to on-the-record MMC proceedings under the federal and state Constitutions, and whether Gerawan has standing to challenge the Board's decision. The trial court found that while Gerawan had standing, the Board's decision was not unconstitutional, as the public does not have a constitutional right of access to MMC proceedings. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Board, and against Gerawan and Garcia, and entered judgment in the Board's favor. Gerawan and Garcia challenge the trial court's ruling, arguing the Board's decision is unconstitutional, while the Board renews its argument that Gerawan has no standing. While we conclude Gerawan lacks standing, we agree with the trial court that there is no right of access under the federal and state Constitutions to on-the-record MMC proceedings. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

THE STATUTORY FRAMEWORK
The ALRA

In 1975, the Legislature enacted the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) "to provide for collective-bargaining rights for agricultural employees" (§ 1140.2) by putting into place a system of laws generally patterned after the National Labor Relations Act ( 29 U.S.C. § 151 ; the NLRA). ( J.R. Norton Co. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board (1979) 26 Cal.3d 1, 8, 160 Cal.Rptr. 710, 603 P.2d 1306 ; see § 1148 [in implementing the ALRA, the Board follows applicable NLRA precedents].) The ALRA was enacted to " ‘ensure peace in the agricultural fields by guaranteeing justice for all agricultural workers and stability in labor relations,’ " which the ALRA achieves by declaring " ‘the right of agricultural employees to organize themselves into unions and to engage in collective bargaining, free from intimidation by either employers or union representatives.’ " ( Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd. (2017) 3 Cal.5th 1118, 1131, 225 Cal.Rptr.3d 517, 405 P.3d 1087 (Gerawan Farming I ).)

"Under the ALRA, [r]epresentatives designated or selected by a secret ballot for the purposes of collective bargaining by the majority of the agricultural employees in the bargaining unit shall be the exclusive representatives of all the agricultural employees in such unit for the purpose of collective bargaining with respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment.’ (§ 1156, see § 1156.3 [setting forth the election process].)" ( Gerawan Farming I, supra , 3 Cal.5th at p. 1131, 225 Cal.Rptr.3d 517, 405 P.3d 1087.) After the election, the Board "shall certify" the result unless it determines based on a sustained election challenge "that there are sufficient grounds to refuse to do so." (§ 1156.3, subd. (e)(2) [stating grounds for such refusal].) "The ALRA also provides a process by which employees may petition to decertify a labor organization as their representative. (§ 1156.7.)" ( Gerawan Farming I , at pp. 1131–1132, 225 Cal.Rptr.3d 517, 405 P.3d 1087.)

When a labor organization is certified as an election winner, thereby becoming the employees' bargaining representative, certain legal consequences follow. First, a statutory bar exists to holding another representation election for at least the initial one-year certification period. (§§ 1155.2, subd. (b), 1156.5, 1156.6.) Second, a duty to bargain is created, which requires the employer and labor representative to "bargain collectively in good faith" in order to reach an agreement "with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment," although "such obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal." (§ 1155.2, subd. (a).) The duty to bargain "has no time limit"—the duty continues until the union is replaced or decertified through a subsequent election. ( Gerawan Farming I, supra , 3 Cal.5th at pp. 1153–1154, 225 Cal.Rptr.3d 517, 405 P.3d 1087.) Once a union is certified, it "remains the employees' exclusive bargaining representative until it is decertified or until the union is unwilling or unable to represent the bargaining unit." ( Id. at p. 1155, 225 Cal.Rptr.3d 517, 405 P.3d 1087.)

The MMC Process

In 2002, the Legislature determined "additional legislation was necessary to fulfill the goals of the ALRA because it had proven ineffective at facilitating the negotiation and completion of [CBAs]. The Legislature therefore enacted the ALRA's ‘mandatory mediation and conciliation’ (MMC) provisions to ‘ensure a more effective collective bargaining process between agricultural employers and agricultural employees.’ " ( Gerawan Farming I, supra , 3 Cal.5th at p. 1130, 225 Cal.Rptr.3d 517, 405 P.3d 1087.) "The MMC statute sets forth a process, known as compulsory interest arbitration, ‘in which the terms and conditions of employment are established by a final and binding decision of an arbitrator.’ [Citation.] Unlike ‘grievance arbitration,’ which focuses on ‘construing the terms of an existing agreement and applying them to a particular set of facts,’ interest arbitration ‘focuses on what the terms of a new agreement should be.’ [Citation.] The MMC process results in ‘quasi-legislative action by which [t]he terms of the "agreement" determined by the arbitrator [are] imposed upon [the employer] by force of law.’ " ( Id. at p. 1133, 225 Cal.Rptr.3d 517, 405 P.3d 1087.)

An agricultural employer or certified labor organization invokes the MMC process by filing a declaration with the Board which states the parties failed to reach a CBA and requests the Board to order the parties to MMC. ( § 1164, subd. (a).) If the declaration satisfies the statutory requirements, "the board shall immediately issue an order directing the parties to [MMC] of their issues." ( § 1164, subd. (b) ; Cal. Code Regs., § 20402.) The Board then requests a list of nine mediators with experience in labor mediation from the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service, from which the parties select a mediator. The parties bear equally the costs of mediation and conciliation. ( § 1164, subd. (b) ; Cal. Code Regs., § 20403.)

Once appointed, the mediator "shall immediately schedule meetings at a time and location reasonably accessible to the parties." ( § 1164, subd. (c) ; Cal. Code Regs., § 20405 ["The mediator shall appoint a time and place for the mediation ...."].) "Mediation" proceeds for a period of 30 days; on "expiration of the 30-day period, if the parties do not resolve the issues to their mutual satisfaction, the mediator shall certify that the mediation process has been exhausted." ( § 1164, subd. (c).) The mediation period may be extended an additional 30 days "[u]pon mutual agreement of the parties." ( § 1164, subd. (c) ; Cal. Code Regs., § 20407, subd. (a) ["The 30-day timelines may be waived by mutual agreement of the parties and with the approval of the mediator."].) The 30-day period commences "on the date of the first scheduled mediation session." (Cal. Code Regs., § 20407, subd. (a).)

The Board's implementing regulations specify how the mediation is to be conducted. Within seven...

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2 cases
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