GENERAL LEGAL PRINCIPLES; CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT/ INTERPRETATION – General Principles of Contract Interpretation
Single Topic for Decision 1777E
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1404.03000 – General Principles of Contract Interpretation
When interpreting collective bargaining agreements, the Board applies traditional rules of contract law, such as the provisions of Civil Code sections 1638 and 1641. This guidance is used in unilateral change cases. Every contract requires mutual assent and the outward manifestation or expression of assent is controlling. Where the contract language is silent or ambiguous, the policy may be ascertained by examining past practice or bargaining history. Looking at the surrounding provisions under the principle of “noscitur a sociis,” the salary increase formula clearly substantiates the principle in the CBA that 65% of the appropriate revenues will be allocated to unit members. The Board’s interpretation harmonizes the potential conflict between provisions of the CBA and so “gives a reasonable, lawful and effective meaning to all the terms” as provided in Civil Code 1641. “Line 1100” is not a technical term under Civil Code section 1645 because it is not a term understood by the union negotiators, who are teachers and who are not school district budget officers. The parties’ outward expressions supports the Board’s interpretation as shown in District spreadsheets with a line item for “unit member salaries.” Looking at bargaining history and the parties’ testimony, substitute teachers, walk-on coaches, and summer school and independent study teachers are not members of the bargaining unit.