On Thursday, May 30, 2013, in County of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission (2013) S191944, the California Supreme Court issued an important decision establishing the right of public sector labor associations to obtain from public entities the names and addresses of nonmember fair share fee payers. The case arose from a refusal by the County of Los Angeles to agree to a bargaining proposal by a local labor association that would have required the County to provide such information.
In overturning an adverse decision by the Second District Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court made or reaffirmed the following significant holdings:
Under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and longstanding principles of labor law, a public employer violates its obligation to bargain in good faith when it withholds information from a public employee association that is relevant to collective bargaining.
Because an exclusive bargaining representative owes a “duty of fair representation” to members and fair share fee payers alike, its obligation to provide relevant information extends to employees who are not union members. As such, the information sought was presumptively relevant to collective bargaining.
Because the information sought was presumptively relevant to collective bargaining, it was the County’s burden (which it did not meet) to demonstrate that it was not actually relevant or that it could not be provided.
The California Supreme Court also determined that the Court of Appeal had erred in imposing a procedure that would have required the public employer to provide notice and an opportunity for fair share employees to “opt out” before disclosing their names and contact information.
This decision is significant to the extent that, for the first time, it brings fair share employee identification and contact information within the scope of bargaining-related information that an employer must provide to an exclusive bargaining representative. While affirmative membership is typically very high in associations representing peace officers and fire protection personnel, that is not always the case for associations representing miscellaneous and other groups of public employees. In any event, this decision and the affirmative duty imposed upon public entities may not only provide labor associations with an excellent tool to contact and bring employees within the fold, but it may also put some level of pressure on fair share riders to become members on their own.
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