On Thursday, workers in San Diego won an important preliminary victory in the ongoing struggle to prevent city officials from imposing unfair pension concessions on employees. Under California law, employers must bargain with union employees over any changes that would significantly alter wages, hours or benefits. Rather than using this well-established procedure, City officials engineered a dodge by introducing a ballot measure that would strip workers’ pensions.
When the measure was placed on the ballot, the local union brought charges before the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), an administrative court that hears disputes regarding unfair labor practices. The PERB concluded workers had enough evidence for a case to go forward. It ordered that the measure not go into effect until it determined whether the City’s behavior was illegal. In response, the City sued the superior state court to prevent PERB from hearing the case. After the lower court sided with the City, the workers appealed. Thursday’s decision from the Fourth Court of Appeal confirms that PERB has the exclusive authority to hear the case, and orders the City to participate in the process.
While this decision does not determine whether the ballot measure itself is illegal, it is an important first step in the fight to protect workers’ pensions and has important implications for all public employees fighting punitive measures to cut pension benefits.