In City of San Diego v. Public Employee Relations Board (April 11, 2017), the Fourth District Court of Appeal considered an unfair labor practices challenge brought by unions against the city of San Diego under the state’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”). The unions alleged that the city’s mayor’s involvement with a 2012 pension reform initiative converted a citizen-sponsored initiative (“CPRI”) to a city-sponsored measure, thereby requiring the city to engage in meet-and-confer under MMBA before placing the measure on the ballot, which the city failed to do. The initiative mandated that new city employees, except police officers, be provided with a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan, rather than the city’s traditional defined benefit retirement plan.
The mayor was involved in initiating, sponsoring, promoting, and implementing the CPRI. The union’s challenge was originally filed in the state Public Employee Relations Board (“PERB”), with jurisdiction over public employee labor disputes. The PERB issued an administrative decision siding with the unions, finding that the initiative qualified as a city-sponsored measure, and that the city had violated its meet-and-confer obligations. On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal disagreed with nearly every factual and legal determination made by the PERB, and reversed the agency’s determination. The court concluded: