International Ass'n of Fire Fighters, Local No. 1319, AFL-CIO v. City of Palo Alto

Decision Date04 March 1963
Docket NumberAFL-CIO
Citation29 Cal.Rptr. 219
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesINTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS, LOCAL NO. 1319,, and Harold T. Smith, Petitioners and Respondents, v. CITY OF PALO ALTO, a Chartered City, Jerome Keithley, City Manager, et al., Respondents and Appellants. Civ. 20495.

Robert E. Michalski, City Atty. of Palo Alto, Stanley R. Norton, Asst. City Atty., Palo Alto, for appellants.

Charles P. Scully, Victor Van Bourg, San Francisco, for respondents.

MOLINARI, Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment in favor of the petitioners 1 directing the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate against the appellants 2 and ordering the dismissal of a cross-complaint filed by the appellants against the petitioners.

The Record

The petitioners filed a petition for writ of mandate against the appellants alleging substantially: that the appellants have established and maintain in effect policies, rules and regulations prohibiting employees of the appellant city's fire department from joining a labor organization; that the said regulations obstruct the right of fire fighters in their exercise of freedom of self-organization; and that appellants have established rules and regulations which discriminate against members and potential members of the Union by denying them the benefits of merit raises, advancements and salary increases and by forcing members of the Union to resign their membership under threat of penalties.

In support of the foregoing allegations the petitioners attached two exhibits (exhibits 'A' and 'B') to their petition. Exhibit 'A' consists of a letter written by the attorney for the petitioning Union to the appellant city manager advising him of the enactment of Assembly Bill 618 3 at the 1959 session of the Legislature, and of an opinion of the Attorney General with reference thereto, and requesting an expression of willingness to comply with said law. Exhibit 'B' is the city manager's response to said letter. The substance of the latter letter is an acknowledgment of said law and the Attorney General's opinion, and a statement that: 'We have been advised by our City Attorney, however, that in his opinion the law does not apply to charter cities and is therefore not binding on the City of Palo Alto nor any of its officers. We are acting accordingly.'

The petitioners further alleged that the appellants had acted contrary to the provisions of sections 1960 to 1963 of the Labor Code 4 and prayed that an alternative writ of mandate issue commanding the appellants to vacate the above alleged policies and regulations which restrict union activities and membership and to comply with sections 1960-1963. An alternative writ thereupon issued ordering the appellants to vacate and set aside the policies, rules and regulations referred to in the petition, to cease and desist from the alleged activities, and directing compliance with said Labor Code sections, or to show cause why they had not done so.

The appellants filed their return and answer to the alternative writ wherein they made certain denials and admissions. They denied: that the petitioning Union was and is a labor organization organized as a voluntary unincorporated association; that all of the members of the Union were or are employees of the appellant city and its fire department; and that petitioner, Smith, was and is president of said Union and that he was and is acting as its agent and representative. The appellants in said answer and return expressly admitted as follows: that at the time of the filing of the petition in this action on April 27, 1961, the rules and regulations of the Fire Department of the City of Palo Alto contained a provision prohibiting union membership, but that on May 9, 1961, said rule was rescinded by action of the appellant city manager; that they have not dealt with, recognized or maintained any relationship with the petitioners concerning the matters set forth in the petition on the advice of their legal counsel on the ground that sections 1960 to 1963 do not apply to charter cities and on the further ground that section 1962 requires a legislative body to only "discuss" grievances and recommendations regarding wages, salaries, hours and working conditions; that the appellants have not "dealt with, recognized or maintained any relationship" or had any discussion with the petitioner organization for the further reason that many fire fighter employees of the appellant city are members of the Palo Alto Municipal Employees Association and of other employee organization; and that the appellant city has not been presented with any evidence to show that the petitioner association represents the fire fighter employees of the appellant city in preference to said other associations or otherwise. The appellants also admit in their said answer to the receipt of exhibit A and the execution of exhibit B, but deny the remaining allegations of the petition.

By way of a distinct and separate defense to the petition the appellants alleged as follows: that the appellant city is a charter city incorporated pursuant to provisions of sections 6 and 8 of article XI of the California Constitution; the existence of the aforesaid rule prohibiting union membership and its rescission on May 9, 1961, by the appellant city manager upon the recommendation of the chief of the fire department; that no rule or other ordinance exists which prohibits membership by any employee of the appellant city in any bona fide labor organization; that aside from a request made on October 5, 1959, which was rejected, and excepting for the request indicated in exhibit A attached to the petition no request for recognition or discussion of any problems of firemen belonging to petitioner have been made or presented to the appellant city, its council, its city manager, or its fire chief; and that pursuant to its charter the appellant city has provided for working rules and regulations for its firemen, has established a merit system, and has provided for a grievance and appeal procedure for all of the appellant city's employees.

A cross-complaint for declaratory relief was filed shortly thereafter by the appellants. The essence of said cross-complaint is that a controversy has arisen between the appellants and the petitioners relative to the validity and interpretation of section 1962, the appellants contending therein that said section is not applicable to the appellant city and further that it is unconstitutional. By their prayer the appellants sought a declaration of such unconstitutionality and inapplicability, and, in the event section 1962 was found to be valid and applicable, a declaration of the rights and duties of the parties thereunder.

No answer to the cross-complaint was ever filed, nor does it appear that any pretrial proceedings were had or that any pretrial order was made. On this state of the pleadings the action proceeded to trial. 5 Only one witness testified: he was the appellant fire chief, called as a witness by the petitioners. The fire chief testified that he wrote the letter (exhibit A attached to the answer and return), which recommended the rescission of the aforementioned rule prohibiting union membership and that he wrote the following statement in said letter: 'I will admit that I advised one Captain to resign his membership because it has been my belief that supervisory personnel should not be affiliated with any employee organization.' He testified further that the captain in question was a member of the petitioning Union and that he had recommended that the said captain resign his membership in the Union because of his belief that supervisory personnel should not be affiliated with an employee organization. The court thereupon stated that the question before it appeared to be one of law, and after an indication by the court that the matter ought not to be pursued further, both sides rested. 6 The matter was thereupon submitted and the trial court thereafter made its judgment ordering the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate. The orders therein made are set out in their entirety in the footnote. 7

Questions Presented

1. Are sections 1960-1963 of the Labor Code applicable to a chartered city such as the City of Palo Alto?

2. Are the petitioners beneficially interested in the issuance of the writ of mandate?

3. If the aforementioned sections are applicable to the City of Palo Alto and the petitioners are beneficially interested, was the trial court warranted in ordering the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate?

4. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in dismissing the cross-complaint for declaratory relief?

The Applicability of Labor Code Sections 1960-1963 to Chartered Cities

The crucial question to be determined by us is whether sections 1960-1963 are applicable to chartered cities. The conclusion reached on this main question will determine the resolution of the other questions presented on this appeal. Accordingly, we now turn to the subject sections. 8

The petition alleges that the appellant city is a chartered city created by and pursuant to the laws of the State of California. This allegation is not denied by the appellants in their answer. Indeed, the appellants concede in their briefs on appeal that Palo Alto is a chartered city. They assert therein that the appellant city has been chartered by the People of the State of been chartered by the People of the State of California pursuant to sections 6, 8 and 8 1/2 of article XI of the California Constitution. This is also a matter of which both the trial court and the appellate court take judicial notice. (Code Civ.Proc. § 1875, subds. 2 and 3; Spaulding v. Desmond, 188 Cal. 783, 790, 207 P. 896; Clark v. City of Pasadena, 102 Cal.App.2d 198, 200, 227 P.2d 306; County of Marin v. Dufficy, 144 Cal.App.2d 30, 34, 300 P.2d 71; County...

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1 cases
  • Professional Fire Fighters, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • March 4, 1963
    ...§ 159.)5 The Palo Alto case is presently on appeal before the District Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division 1, Cal.App., 29 Cal.Rptr. 219. ...

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