County Supervisors to Vote on Suspending Labor Negotiations Law

A meeting of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. (Photo by: Norberto Santana Jr.)

Orange County supervisors are slated to vote next Tuesday on whether to suspend a labor negotiations law they enacted last year known as COIN, in light of a recent state ruling that invalidates parts of the ordinance.

In his staff report, County Counsel Leon Page says the suspension is necessary to protect the county from further legal liability.

“In order to avoid claims of a failure to negotiate promptly upon request…staff recommends that the Board” suspend the ordinance until the litigation surrounding it has finished, Page wrote.

(Click here to read the staff report.)

COIN, which stands for Civic Openness in Negotiations, requires public disclosure of offers and counter-offers during supervisors’ negotiations with public employee unions, and the posting of proposed agreements 30 days in advance of voting on their approval, among other things.

Last month, the state’s Public Employment Relations Board ruled that county supervisors violated labor laws because COIN imposed new requirements on employee negotiations without giving unions a chance to negotiate about the changes ahead of time.

If the ruling stands, the county would have to repeal four key sections of COIN, including public reporting of offers and counteroffers, disclosure of what took place during labor negotiation sessions, a 30-day non-negotiations period before supervisors consider opening proposals to labor groups.

The county has since asked the full PERB board to overturn the ruling, taking issue with many of its conclusions.

COIN was brought forward last year by then-Supervisor John Moorlach, who argued that it will give residents a better chance to weigh in on proposed labor agreements.

Supporters, such as the conservative Lincoln Club of Orange County, also suggested the ordinance would help prevent labor costs from escalating due to benefit increases.

Labor groups, meanwhile, argued that COIN triggers a requirement to meet and confer with employees under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, which mandates certain types of communication between government agencies and employee groups regarding labor negotiations.

They also criticized supervisors for not having the ordinance cover all government contracting, especially with private companies that finance the supervisors’ political campaigns and account for more than half of the county’s spending.

In his proposal for next week, Page is asking for the suspension to take place immediately, which requires approval from four of the five supervisors.

And because Supervisor Lisa Bartlett is scheduled to be on vacation next week, the measure will likely need support from the rest of the board to pass.

That could mean the proposal won’t pass because Supervisor Michelle Steel has indicated she doesn’t support it.

“I believe this item is premature and we should wait for the appeal process to play out before making such a drastic change in course,” Steel said in a statement Thursday.

The rest of the board members didn’t return messages seeking comment.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

  • John Claxton

    Leon Page truly enjoys making a mockery of the law. If PERB or the courts rule against the County, Page will just completely ignore it or twist the ruling to fit his twisted interpretation. Page is going to cost the County millions and millions for his very bad legal advice.

  • David Zenger

    Another great piece of lawyering by Nick Chrisos & Co.