Decision 2173M – County of Sonoma

SF-CE-456-M

Decision Date: March 1, 2011

Decision Type: PERB Decision

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Perc Vol: 35
Perc Index: 61

Decision Headnotes

602.00000 – EMPLOYER REFUSAL TO BARGAIN IN GOOD FAITH; UNILATERAL CHANGE (FOR NEGOT OF SPECIFIC SUBJECTS, SEE SEC 1000, SCOPE OF REPRESENTATION)
602.01000 – In General

MOU did not establish a written agreement to link retiree health insurance benefits to current bargaining unit employees. Where evidence failed to establish that employer had an unequivocal, clearly enunciated and acted upon, and readily ascertainable past practice, accepted by both parties, of linking retiree health insurance benefits to the benefits received by current bargaining unit employees, charging party did not met its burden of proving a unilateral change in an established past practice, and prima facie case of unlawful unilateral change was not established.

602.00000 – EMPLOYER REFUSAL TO BARGAIN IN GOOD FAITH; UNILATERAL CHANGE (FOR NEGOT OF SPECIFIC SUBJECTS, SEE SEC 1000, SCOPE OF REPRESENTATION)
602.06000 – Change in Past Practice

Where evidence failed to establish that employer had an unequivocal, clearly enunciated and acted upon, and readily ascertainable past practice, accepted by both parties, of linking retiree health insurance benefits to the benefits received by current bargaining unit employees, charging party did not met its burden of proving a unilateral change in an established past practice, and prima facie case of unlawful unilateral change was not established.

1101.00000 – CASE PROCESSING PROCEDURES; LIMITATION PERIOD FOR FILING CHARGE
1101.01000 – In General

Charge that employer unilaterally changed its policy on retiree health insurance contributions by tying them to contributions made on behalf of active unrepresented administrative management employees rather than to contributions made on behalf of bargaining unit employees was not timely filed, where union knew or should have known of employer’s 20-year past practice of paying the same contributions for retirees as it did for administrative management.

1101.00000 – CASE PROCESSING PROCEDURES; LIMITATION PERIOD FOR FILING CHARGE
1101.03000 – Computation of Six-Month Period

Charge that employer unilaterally changed its policy on retiree health insurance contributions by tying them to contributions made on behalf of active unrepresented administrative management employees rather than to contributions made on behalf of bargaining unit employees was not timely filed, where union knew or should have known of employer’s 20-year past practice of paying the same contributions for retirees as it did for administrative management.

1404.00000 – GENERAL LEGAL PRINCIPLES; CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT/ INTERPRETATION
1404.01000 – In General

Although PERB does not have jurisdiction to resolve pure contract disputes, it may interpret contract language if necessary to do so to decide an unfair practice charge case. Traditional rules of contract law guide the Board's interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. A contract must be interpreted so as to give effect to the mutual intention of the parties as it existed at the time of contracting, so far as the same is ascertainable and lawful. Where contractual language is clear and unambiguous, it is unnecessary to go beyond the plain language of the contract itself to ascertain its meaning. Where the contract language is silent or ambiguous, the policy may be ascertained by examining past practice or bargaining history. Where contract language was ambiguous and review of extrinsic evidence failed to support charging party’s interpretation, MOU did not establish a written agreement to link retiree health insurance benefits to current bargaining unit employees.

1404.00000 – GENERAL LEGAL PRINCIPLES; CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT/ INTERPRETATION
1404.02000 – Board’s Jurisdiction To Interpret Contracts

Although PERB does not have jurisdiction to resolve pure contract disputes, it may interpret contract language if necessary to do so to decide an unfair practice charge case.

1404.00000 – GENERAL LEGAL PRINCIPLES; CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT/ INTERPRETATION
1404.03000 – General Principles of Contract Interpretation

Although PERB does not have jurisdiction to resolve pure contract disputes, it may interpret contract language if necessary to do so to decide an unfair practice charge case. Traditional rules of contract law guide the Board's interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. A contract must be interpreted so as to give effect to the mutual intention of the parties as it existed at the time of contracting, so far as the same is ascertainable and lawful. Where contractual language is clear and unambiguous, it is unnecessary to go beyond the plain language of the contract itself to ascertain its meaning. Where the contract language is silent or ambiguous, the policy may be ascertained by examining past practice or bargaining history. Where contract language was ambiguous and review of extrinsic evidence failed to support charging party’s interpretation, MOU did not establish a written agreement to link retiree health insurance benefits to current bargaining unit employees.