A recent ruling sent the University back to the negotiating table in its two-year battle with the union representing campus clerical workers.
The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) Nov. 26 ruling denied the administration’s request to declare an “impasse” in bargaining with the Coalition of University Employees (C.U.E.). Had PERB granted the request, outside mediators would have been brought into the negotiations.
The request was denied on the grounds that only employers who bargain in good faith may use the “impasse” procedure, and the University has previously been found by PERB to have acted in bad faith. The two sides, which are negotiating over issues ranging from health care to wage increases, must now resume the bargaining process on a date yet to be set.
PERB previously determined the University had acted in bad faith after UC negotiators presented an illegal take-it-or-leave-it offer Aug. 7 this year. The union rejected the offer and complained to PERB that the offer constituted an unfair labor practice. PERB confirmed the complaint Nov. 21.
C.U.E. has accused the UC of other unfair labor practices, including a failure to provide financial information necessary for a fair bargaining process, C.U.E. Alternate Bargainer Sylvia Rodriguez said.
“They keep saying at all our meetings, ‘Yeah, we’ll give that to you, no problem,’ but then we never get it,” she said.
Debbie Ceder, former C.U.E. Local 1 president, said she wonders what motivated the University to request the impasse when it so clearly would be denied.
“I don’t know if they thought this was a way of frightening us or if they actually thought they had a strong case,” she said. “Clearly, PERB found that they did not.”
Had PERB granted the impasse request, the University could have again presented a “final” offer, this time legally. The decline of the request means the two sides must continue to negotiate, although it remains unclear as to when talks will resume.
“We haven’t set a date yet, but we think there will be negotiations in December,” said Joanne Murray, lead bargainer for C.U.E.
When talks do resume, they are likely to be acrimonious. The University has retained a notorious anti-labor law firm, Littler Mendelson, a move that has drawn fire from critics.
“When an employer retains Littler Mendelson, it’s practically an admission of guilt,” said State Assemblywoman Dion Aroner (D.-Berkeley) in a press release.
The union also objected to the University bringing in extra help beyond its existing fleet of lawyers.
“They are basically outsourcing on taxpayer money,” Rodriguez said.
Aroner said in the press release that she questioned whether the University should be able to use public money to hire more lawyers.
“The Legislature will need to take a closer look at the University’s budget if this is how they spend taxpayer money,” the statement said.
University officials could not be reached for comment.