Pittsburg Unified School Dist. v. California School Employees Assn.

Decision Date15 April 1985
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties, 24 Ed. Law Rep. 335 PITTSBURG UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. CALIFORNIA SCHOOL EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants and Appellants. A016086. Civ. 54671.

Keith V. Breon, Martha Buell Scott, Breon, Galgani, Godino & O'Donnell, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiffs and respondents.

Peter A. Janiak, Madalyn J. Frazzini, Siona D. Windsor, Maureen C. Whelan, E. Luis Saenz, California School Employees Ass'n, San Jose, Cal., for defendants and appellants.

Kirsten L. Zerger, Raymond L. Hansen, Diane Ross, Ramon E. Romero, Burlingame, Cal., for amicus curiae California Teachers Ass'n.

American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California: Margaret C. Crosby, Alan L. Schlosser, Amitai Schwartz, American Civil Liberties Union, Foundation of Northern California, Inc., San Francisco, Cal., for amicus curiae.

KLINE, Presiding Justice.

The chief issue in this case is whether certain concerted activities of school employees involved in a labor dispute with a school district constitute a corrupt practice or are otherwise unlawful and may therefore be restricted without infringing First Amendment rights.

Appellants, California School Employees Association, and Local CSEA Chapter 44 1 (hereinafter collectively referred to as "CSEA") and various individual officers, members and employees of CSEA, appeal the issuance of a preliminary injunction prohibiting them, and others acting in concert with them, from picketing and leafletting outside the personal business offices of certain governing board members of the Pittsburg Unified School District (hereinafter "District). They contend that the injunction violates their constitutional rights under the first amendment and thus seek reversal of the preliminary injunction, dismissal of the underlying complaint for declaratory relief and damages, and the award of court costs.

Statement of the Case/Facts

During 1980, CSEA and the District conducted negotiations concerning the reopening of a collective bargaining agreement. On November 17, 1980, after 12 negotiating sessions, the District and CSEA jointly declared that they were at an impasse. Thereafter, a mediator was appointed by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). Mediation sessions were held during February and March 1981. Shortly before these sessions commenced, local officers of CSEA 44 began sending letters to members informing them of the status of their dispute with the District and calling for membership support, attendance at meetings of the board of governors of the District, and, in the event these efforts failed, employee action.

On March 26, 27 and 30, for approximately one hour each day, four or five CSEA members carrying placards and distributing leaflets stationed themselves on the sidewalk in front of the private business offices of respondent governing board members Nancy Parent, an attorney, and Marlene Cacciola, a tax accountant. Said respondents' offices, which were adjacent to one another, were located in a commercial center on Railroad Avenue, a major thoroughfare of the City of Pittsburg. Many of the placards carried by the picketers described their activity as a "Public Information Picket." 2 In declarations presented to the trial court, officers of CSEA and members involved in the picketing asserted that picketers did not block ingress or egress from the buildings and that no one was otherwise discouraged from entering respondents' business premises or from doing business with them.

On March 30, 1981, the third day of the picketing, the District filed a complaint and supporting declarations with the Contra Costa County Superior Court seeking injunctive relief and damages against appellants. The District sought to enjoin appellants from picketing outside the business offices and residences of the governing board members, as well as one million dollars in punitive damages. Concurrently, the District applied for a temporary restraining order and an order to show cause regarding preliminary injunction. On March 31, 1981, Judge David A. Dolgin issued a Memorandum Decision and Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting appellants from picketing at the "private offices, businesses or places of employment" or "private residences" of members of the District's governing board. 3 A hearing was held before Judge Dolgin on the request for a preliminary injunction on April 14, 1981. A Memorandum of Decision issued the following day denying the request for injunctive relief and dissolving the temporary restraining order "on the sole ground that the school district itself is not a proper party to enforce the personal rights of individual Board members."

On April 15, 1981, after the temporary restraining order was dissolved, the attorney for appellants telephoned various CSEA members to inform them of the order dissolving the restraining order and advised that CSEA should limit its activity to leafletting. Accepting this advice, no more than seven CSEA members returned to the public sidewalks on April 15, 16 and 17 without placards for the sole purpose of leafletting. The single type of leaflet utilized, which was assertedly handed only to passers-by who indicated interest, identified the occupations represented by CSEA and asked for the public's help in obtaining what it termed a fair contract. The public was urged to call board members whose names were listed on the leaflet.

In the words of one of the officers of CSEA, the purpose of the leafletting was "[t]o draw attention from the public to the fact that these are Board members and [that] they can be contacted." Appellants did not leaflet outside the other members' offices because one worked outside of Pittsburg, where the people in that area "would not be the voting electorate for the Pittsburg Unified Board members and they would not be able to support [CSEA] views on the contract"; another member was retired; and appellants were not certain where the fifth member was employed.

On April 17, 1981, the District amended its complaint to include the five governing board members, individually and in their official positions, and sought another temporary restraining order. On the same day, appellants filed a declaration of prejudice against Judge Dolgin pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6, whereupon Judge Dolgin declared himself disqualified. The case was transferred to Judge Richard Arnason, who refused to issue a temporary restraining order and set the preliminary injunction request for hearing on an order to show cause. Respondents sought a petition for extraordinary relief from this court on April 22, 1981, which was denied as premature.

Consistent with an Interim Agreement signed by the parties on April 23, CSEA ceased its leafletting activity to facilitate a negotiating session that took place on April 28. That negotiating session resulted in the agreement by CSEA that further concerted activity would cease until negotiations were concluded. In return, the District agreed not to seek a hearing on the preliminary injunction during this period. At a final negotiating session on May 11 the parties jointly concluded that the fact finding procedures of Government Code section 3548.1 should be invoked. CSEA agreed to refrain from concerted activity for a reasonable time in order to allow the parties to prepare for the hearing on the preliminary injunction but did not agree to refrain from that activity for the duration of the fact finding process.

On May 18, 1981, after an earlier consolidated hearing on both respondents' request for preliminary injunction and appellants' demurrer to the amended complaint, Judge Robert J. Cooney issued a memorandum decision overruling the demurrer, providing appellants twenty days within which to answer, and granting the preliminary injunction substantially as prayed for. 4 An order consistent with this decision was issued on June 11, 1981. 5 Thereafter appellants filed a timely answer to the complaint and a motion to reconsider, which was denied. This appeal followed.


Before reaching the merits, we first confront the thorny question of the trial court's jurisdiction. Appellants, amicus California Teachers Association ("CTA") and PERB contend that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enjoin appellants' activity as PERB had initial exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether the leafletting was an unfair practice under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) (Gov.Code, § 3540 et seq.) 6 and, if so, to fashion the appropriate remedy.

In El Rancho Unified School Dist. v. National Education Ass'n (1983) 33 Cal.3d 946, 192 Cal.Rptr. 123, 663 P.2d 893, the Supreme Court reemphasized the conclusion reached in San Diego Teachers Ass'n v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 1, 154 Cal.Rptr. 893, 593 P.2d 838, "that the principles defining the preemptive reach of the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act] are generally applicable in determining the scope of PERB's preemptive jurisdiction under EERA. (24 Cal.3d at p. 12, 154 Cal.Rptr. 893, 593 P.2d 838; accord Public Employment Relations Bd. v. Modesto City Schools Dist. (1982) 136 Cal.App.3d 881, 890-891, 186 Cal.Rptr. 634....)" (Id., at p. 953, 192 Cal.Rptr. 123, 663 P.2d 893, fn. omitted.) Embracing the NLRA model, El Rancho concluded that PERB has exclusive jurisdiction over activities "arguably protected or prohibited" by the EERA.

Under the federal model, state courts have been allowed to enforce certain laws of general applicability even though aspects of the challenged conduct were arguably protected or prohibited by the NLRA. "Thus, for example, the Court has upheld state-court jurisdiction over conduct that touches 'interests so deeply rooted in local feeling and responsibility that, in the absence of compelling congressional direction, we could not infer...

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