Placentia Fire Fighters v. City of Placentia

Decision Date16 March 1976
Citation129 Cal.Rptr. 126,57 Cal.App.3d 9
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties, 92 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3373, 80 Lab.Cas. P 54,016 PLACENTIA FIRE FIGHTERS, LOCAL 2147, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF PLACENTIA et al., Defendants and Respondents. Civ. 14072.

Silber, Benezra & Taslitz, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellants.

Calvin T. Goforth, a Professional Corp., St. Sure, Moore, Hoyt & Sizoo, Oakland, Cal., for respondents.

WHELAN, Associate Justice *.

Placentia Fire Fighters, Local 2147 (Union), plaintiff, has appealed from a judgment denying it relief in its action against City of Placentia (City) and certain of City's officials.

The action was based upon alleged denial by City of Union's bargaining rights under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (the Act) (Gov.Code §§ 3500--3509), 1 noncompliance by City with and violation of that Act, of certain sections of the Labor Code, and of section 1983 of title 42, U.S.C.A. Injunctive relief was asked against such alleged noncompliance and violations, as well as a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages and attorney's fees.

Judgment was entered September 14, 1973, followed by a notice of appeal.

On September 25, 1973, bargaining representatives of City and Union executed a memorandum of understanding provided for in Government Code section 3505.1 covering the wages, hours and working conditions for the period October 1, 1973 to June 30, 1976.

Following the enactment of the Act, City, in July 1971, adopted resolutions 71--R--153 declaring a policy governing employer-employee relations under the Act. Section 5 of the resolution defined City rights as follows:

'The rights of the City include, but are not limited to, the exclusive right to . . . set standards of service; Determine the procedures and standards of selection for employment and promotion; direct its employees; take disciplinary action; relieve its employees from duty because of lack of work or for other legitimate reasons, maintain the efficiency of governmental operations; determine the methods, means and personnel by which government operations are to be conducted; Determine the content of job classifications; take all necessary actions to carry out its mission in emergencies; and exercise complete control and discretion over its organization and the technology of performing its work.' (Emphasis ours.)

Elsewhere the resolution provided:

'In the establishment of appropriate units . . . (2) management and confidential employees shall not be included in the same unit with non- management or non-confidential employees.'

Section 6 of the resolution provided:

'(A) The City, through its representatives, shall meet and confer in good faith with representatives of formally recognized employee organizations with majority representation rights regarding Matters within the scope of representation including wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment within the appropriate unit.

'(B) The City shall not be required to meet and confer in good faith on any subject preempted by Federal or State law or by the City Charter, Nor shall it be required to meet and confer in good faith on Employee or City Rights as defined in Sections 4 and 5. Proposed amendments to this Resolution are excluded from the scope of meeting and conferring.' (Emphasis ours.)

Following the adoption of resolution 71--R--153, City entered into a memorandum of understanding covering a period ending October 1, 1972, with Placentia City Employees Association (PCEA), which then was the bargaining unit for Fire Department personnel.

By May 8, 1972, Union was in a position to and did request City to recognize it as the representative of all Fire Department employees below the rank of fire chief. On August 9, 1972, City formally recognized Union. In a letter of that date Union was told it would represent (1) firemen and (2) fire captains (suppression). Two fire captains (Edwards and Mosley) were classed as 'Fire Captains (Administrative)' and were not included in the Unit at that time; all fire captains had been grouped together in the memorandum with PCEA. On August 31 Union objected to the exclusion of those two fire captains, saying they must be included or be promoted to battalion chief, a management position.

A series of meet and confer sessions began September 22, 1972. At the first meeting both sides agreed that agreement on any individual item would be contingent on each side's accepting the total bargaining package.

Sixteen other meetings were held between representatives of City and Union, the last on January 24, 1973, at which time City made its last offer, for acceptance by 5 p.m. January 29. On January 25 City sent a letter and copy of the final offer to each member of the Fire Department. That letter asked for a second membership vote and ended with the following:

'I must emphasize again that this is the final offer, which, if not accepted, will be withdrawn. The City Council, at its last session indicated that it may take a position against paying retroactive pay in the future.'

During the course of those negotiations City receded from certain of the positions it had taken earlier, conditioned of course on the agreed-upon principle that binding agreement would result only from an over-all settlement of all issues.

One point on which City did not yield was its wish to change to a 40-hour work-week, with three shifts of eight hours per day.

At the City Council meeting on January 29, a status report was presented on the negotiations with Union. The next day City declared an impasse, saying 'The disputed issue is the eight hour work day, forty hour work week upon which all other segments of the City of Placentia Proposed Memorandum of Understanding is conditioned.' During the month of February two impasse meetings were held. No agreement having been reached on February 26, impasse procedures were discussed. At that point City and Union had conditionally agreed upon the following: recognition, union rights, grievance procedures, probation, policy of no discrimination, retirement, life insurance, clothing allowance, payroll deductions, rules and regulations, and compensation for departmental meetings. Items still in dispute included: management rights, educational incentive program, overtime pay, work schedule, no strikes or slowdowns and no lockout, designation of work assignments, conduct of meet and confer sessions, implementation of the memorandum, and duration of the memorandum.

After City had declared an impasse on January 30, the City Council, on February 20, gave Captains Edwards and Mosley an 8.1% Pay raise retroactive from October 1, 1972.

On February 28, 1973, the Mayor sent the following letter to each resident of Placentia:

'I am sending this letter to each City resident at the request of the entire City Council because of concerns expressed by you and your neighbors. Wage and fringe benefit negotiations with Local 2147 of the Firefighters Union have continued for months without settlement. The Union has delivered leaf-lets door to door, made unsupported accusations, and attempted to frighten the public in their efforts to force your City Council to bow to their demands. Your Councilmen reside within the City, pay taxes, and will not permit a reduction in our fire protection. The City seeks to maintain and improve the present level of emergency and fire protection by increasing the number of on duty fire personnel.

'Your safety is our paramount concern. To this end your City Council has taken steps to insure that fire protection will never be interrupted. Under existing Mutual Aid Agreements surrounding communities are available to provide emergency assistance. The number of volunteer fire personnel has been increased and in addition to fire vehicles, police units are being equipped with resuscitators to enable a more immediate response to breathing difficulties.

'Criticism by the Union is a smoke screen to hide the real issue--the work week. The City Council proposes that the work week for fire personnel be reduced from 67 hours per week (based on 24 hour shifts) to a 40 hour work week (based on 5 eight hour shifts). You may rightfully question why a 27 hour reduction in hours would be so bitterly opposed by the Union, especially when this places fire personnel on an equal status with the remainder of public employees who have been working a 40 hour work week for years. The City proposes 5 fully productive eight hour shifts per week. This will eliminate sleeping on the job, remove beds, televisions, kitchens, and recreational facilities from fire stations. We are simply seeking an honest days work in return for the establishment of a standard work week. The City proposes increased salaries equivalent to other local communities. The City proposal also guarantees an increased number of fire personnel on duty who are awake, clothed, and ready to respond to any emergency calls.

'City Councilmen, as your elected representatives, have the responsibility of constantly reviewing fire protection to improve service at a cost that the taxpayer can afford. Our record of reducing the property tax rate during the past two years has been criticized by Union representatives who want a larger share of your tax dollar. In these days of rising taxes, decisions about tax increases must remain in the hands of your elected officials and not be handed over to employee organizations or any third parties.

'The purpose of this letter is to advise you of our position and seek your support in our efforts to prevent raising costs beyond what we, your elected representatives, feel is fair.'

At a meeting of the City Council on March 6, 1973, resolution 73--R--120 was adopted, which reduced the work-week to 40 hours, increased wages and benefits, and instituted a three-shift, eight-hour work-day. On March 20, Union wrote City asking it to postpone...

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