Monday, July 26, 2010
C.A. Upholds Merger of Government Worker Unions
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The board overseeing relations betweent the City of Los Angeles and its employees properly recognized a newly formed “megalocal” of the Service Employees International Union as the bargaining representative for employees previously represented by a local that was merged into the new entity by the parent union, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled Friday.
Justice Victoria Chavez, in an unpublished opinion for Div. Two, said union dissident Dan Mariscal, who represented himself, failed to show that a separate vote of the old local’s membership was required before it could be merged into a new local, or that the merger was otherwise invalid.
Mariscal was a member of Local 347, which represented about 9,000 employees of the city until 2007, when Local 721 was chartered and replaced it. Local 721 was formed by merging 347 with five other Southern California government employee locals, pursuant to a vote of the union’s international executive board and SEIU members statewide, who endorsed it with 31,408 voting in favor, and 4,256 voting against.
The new local then petitioned the city’s Employee Relations Board for recognition as 347’s successor. Mariscal opposed the petition on the grounds that 347’s members were not given a separate vote on the measure and that the merger would deprive 347’s members of their right to representation.
The ERB granted the petition, adopting a hearing officer’s findings that the merger did not violate the due process rights of opponents or the right of the members to be represented. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe denied Mariscal’s petition for a writ of mandate directing the board to set aside its approval.
Chavez, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the trial judge was correct.
Nothing in the SEIU constitution and bylaws requires a separate vote of locals targeted for merger—a process specifically authorized in the parent union’s governing documents, the justice explained.
Under the city’s Employee Relations Ordinance, she continued, a union representing city employees may merge or affiliate with another union. A vote of the affected employees is not required in order to recognize the new union if it is “a continuation of the old union under a new name,” as opposed to “a substantially different organization.”
Under persuasive federal precedents, Chavez said, a merged entity will not be treated as a substantially different organization if it continues to represent the employees in the same general manner as before. The ERB, she declared, reasonably concluded that Local 721—which was formed after a lengthy and open hearing process, whose board includes members of the old 347 board, which was created with the approval of an overwhelming majority of SEIU’s voting members, and which had taken specific steps to solicit the input of 347’s members on representational issues—is not a substantially different organization.
James Rutkowski and Alan Crowley of Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld represented Local 721 on appeal, along with its general counsel, Robert Hunt.
The case is Mariscal v. Employee Relations Board for the City of Los Angeles (Service Employees International Union Local 721), B218133.
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