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San Diego Union Wins Pension Appeal at CA Supreme Court

There's no doubt about it, the public employment retirement system throughout the state of California is not doing well.

To remedy the retirement problem, the City of San Diego's voters passed a measure in 2012 to make new public employees get a 401(k) instead of a pension. However, the city's union reps were not consulted by the mayor who pushed the initiative onto the ballot, and that failure to meet and confer with the union has been the center of much litigation, both before and after the measure passed. Now, the Supreme Court of California has even chimed in.

Meet and Confer Required, Measured Backlash

In short, because the mayor of San Diego is involved in negotiating with the government/public employee unions, his involvement with pushing forward the new retirement measure onto the ballot conflicts with the duty owed to negotiate fairly.

Initially, this matter was handled administratively before the PERB. However, when the PERB returned a result in favor of the unions, the city appealed. On appeal, the court reviewed the PERB's decision de novo, and overturned the decision after finding certain statutory readings erroneous. However, the California Supreme Court had a little different view, and didn't hold back. It plainly explained that the "PERB's reading is not clearly erroneous. To the contrary, it is clearly correct."

The state Supreme Court further explained that:

"Allowing public officials to purposefully evade the meet-and confer requirements ... seriously undermine[s] the policies served by the statute: fostering full communication between public employers and employees, as well as improving personnel management and employer-employee relations."

The matter was ultimately remanded back to the appellate court so that it could render a decision as instructed by PERB. PERB referred the matter to the state court system because it recognized that it lacked the authority to fashion an appropriate remedy. As such, the state supreme court ordered the appellate court to figure it out.

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