Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 26, 2012


Page 3


Justices Will Not Hear Challenge to L.A. Ordinance


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to a Los Angeles ordinance that generally requires the new owner of a large grocery store to retain the existing workforce for 90 days.

The California Grocers Association had filed a petition for writ of certiorari in November, asking the justices for review of California Grocers Association v. City of Los Angeles (2011) 52 Cal.4th 177. The high court Monday denied that petition without comment.

The association was represented by the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, which had described the law as “a brazen scheme to punish non-union employers.” But the state Supreme Court upheld the law on July 18, holding 6-1 that it was not preempted by state statute or by the National Labor Relations Act.

The city contended that requiring retention of the existing work force guarantees that employees familiar with procedures for safe handling of food products are on hand to train their replacements during the transition.

The grocery operators claimed the law, which was enacted shortly after the announcement that the Albertsons chain was being sold, was solely enacted as job-protection measure. They contended that the National Labor Relations Act preempts the ordinance—which was backed by organized labor and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy—because it allows unionized stores to negotiate alternative arrangements through collective bargaining.

Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, writing for the state high court, noted that the National Labor Relations Board has never held that the NLRA preempts this type of ordinance, even though the question has been raised before several of the board’s administrative law judge.

The lone dissenter was Court of Appeal Justice Elizabeth Grimes of this district’s Div. Eight, sitting on assignment. Grimes said the history and intent of the NLRA supports preemption.

The law violates the principle of collective bargaining, Grimes argued, because it requires an employer to take on “a group of workers that it did not choose” and to grant them benefits, such as termination for cause only, “to which the new employer did not agree.”

The ordinance also directly impacts the bargaining process, the dissenting jurist wrote, because it may result in the new employer being deemed the successor to the former one, obligating it to bargain with the incumbent union.

 Deputy City Attorney Gerald M. Sato was the city’s principal attorney on the case.


Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company