Victory with Measure B!
We have just received a tentative decision in the Measure B litigation today, Monday December 23, 2013. In summary, the Court struck down the major components of Measure B, but let stand the lesser provisions. Assuming the final decision reflects this tentative decision, this is a strong victory! It also bodes very well for our unfair practice charges. Full text of the decision may be found at here, but the main items are as follows:
- The Court rejected the City’s argument that the Reservation of Rights clauses contained within the City’s Charter and Municipal Code prevent vesting of pension rights. Although the Court did not directly endorse many of the authorities raised by the unions, it agreed that the clauses do not themselves prevent the vesting of pension rights.
- The Court struck down Measure B’s provision requiring increased pension contributions by up to 16% of income (the VEP) to cover the system’s unfunded liabilities, for those employees who do not accept a lesser pension benefit going forward.
- The Court struck down the provisions allowing the City Council to suspend COLA payments if it dettermins a "service level emergency exists.
- The Court supported Measure B’s changes to disability retirement eligibility and also found that requiring medical panels to determine qualifying disability, instead of the retirement board, did not impair vested rights.ermines a “service level emergency exists.”
- The Court upheld the Elimination of the SRBR, since doing so does not impair any guaranteed rights because the SRBR benefit is discretionary in nature.
- The Court rejected Measure B’s requirement that employees pay a “minimum of 50%” of the cost of the health plan (as opposed to 1:1 ratio).
- The Court supported that employees can be required to pay a portion of the unfunded liability of the Retiree Health benefit.
- The Court supported AFSCME’s challenge to the Low Cost Health Plan language of Measure B, which pegs retiree health benefits to the lowest cost plan available to any city employee because, the Court ruled, the provision “takes away the right to have access to health care benefits that are fully paid for.”
- The Court rejected the AFSCME and POA's challenge to the provision of Measure B that permits the City to reduce wages in the event the VEP is deemed invalid. In reality, this rejection, simply affirms what the City has the right to do, which is adjust compensation. There are limits, as the Court’s decision appears to hinge on a clause permitting action to the “extent permitted by law,”·which would include the obligation to bargain any such reductions. Thus, Measure B does not change the fact that compensation reductions are permissible only when bargained in accordance with state labor relations law. In other words, the City MUST bargain in good faith with our Union, and not move quickly to impose terms and conditions, as it did with the reduction of pay by 15% in 2011-12.
- Finally, although the Court noted that the decision does not apply to new employees, hearings challenging the City’s adoption of Measure B because of a failure to bargain in good faith are set to be heard in the coming months by administrative law judges appointed by PERB. If PERB determines that the City bargained in bad faith, Measure B it will be unenforceable in its entirety.
This ruling is extremely positive and comes on the back of the recent PERB decision regarding imposition of terms and conditions. The PERB hearing mentioned in the last bullet point is set to occur on January 13, 2014.
Download the full text of the Measure B decision.
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