Why County Workers DO HAVE A DEAL!

Jubal, over at the OCBlog, has responded to my posts about the ONE YEAR general salary increase for County employees, represented by the Orange County Employee’s Association (OCEA).

In his response he states:

“Let me get this straight. The union reps and the county negotiators reach a tentative agreement. OCEA members have the opportunity to vote on whether to accept or reject the agreement. The taxpayers, on the other hand — represented by their elected Supervisors — get no opportunity to vote on whether to accept or reject the agreement. They must accept whatever deal non-elected county bureaucrats negotiated.”

As I have said, as other readers have responded, the answer is in the details of how labor negotiations are conducted. The Brown Act, California’s Open Meeting Law, permits government entities to discuss negotiations and provide instructions to their negotiators in closed session. Further, in the process of negotiation for a labor contract, it is the employer, in this case the County that presents an offer to the Union. The Union then submits that offer to its membership for ratification. If approved, the tentative deal becomes a done deal, with only the final “public” vote left to occur.

All of this is covered in Norberto Santana’s story in today’s OC Register, Questions Arise Over How County OKs Labor Pacts Under Brown Act, August 8, 2006. As the lead in to the story says:

“When people see the board of supervisors vote on a labor deal, what they don’t know is that most often, an agreement has already been reached in private.”

“And it’s perfectly legal.”

While in theory, the Board could change it’s mind and reject its own proposal, to do so would be to venture into the waters of unfair labor practices, including failure to negotiate in “good faith.” Nothing new has come up since the negotiations closed. There is no “new” information floating around that “changes things.” The salary agreement was reached, the Board authorized staff to present and sign a formal offer, the OCEA members accepted that offer.



  2 comments for “Why County Workers DO HAVE A DEAL!

  1. Anonymous
    August 8, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    You are wrong. It is not unlawful or unfair labor practices to have the BOS change its mind. The law cannot compel legislative discretion and until the BOS approves a final deal, they can change their minds.

  2. August 8, 2006 at 9:58 pm


    Sorry to give you the bad news here, but the Board did approve the “DEAL” and the County bargaining team was directly authorized by the Board to make the offer they made. Just because the authorization was given in closed session, does not make it invalid.

    This type of waffling by individual Board Members is nothing new once a deal is publicly announced. In this case OCEA learned from past experience and was not willing to present an offer to its members without assurance that the offer on the table was authorized by the Board.

    The Orange County Employee’s Association (OCEA) negotiating team was assured by the CEO Thomas Mauk that the “DEAL” had been authorized by the Board. That assurance was a required condition in order for the “DEAL” to be presented to the OCEA members for approval.

    The act of authorizing an offer to be made during a bargaining process without the intention of honoring that offer, is a failure to negotiate in good faith, therefore it would be an unfair labor practice, and unlawful.

    The County employees represented by OCEA have accepted the Board authorized “DEAL.” As one of those employees, I expect the Board of Supervisors to act with customary honesty and integrity and ratify the offer they made to OCEA and its represented members.

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