A weeks-long standoff over Orange County’s controversial labor negotiating law ended Tuesday, with county supervisors approving a suspension of the ordinance without discussion.

The move to suspend the Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance paves the way for supervisors to start labor negotiations with the Orange County Employees Association, which represents two-thirds of the county’s 18,000-member workforce.

The suspension of COIN passed Tuesday on a unanimous 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Michelle Steel absent. The vote is the result of a compromise under which OCEA agreed to two public hearings on any labor agreement before it is approved.

The COIN ordinance has been a highly contentious issue for months, with OCEA accusing the supervisors earlier this month of trampling on workers’ rights by going back on an agreement to suspend COIN so overdue labor negotiations can start.

Among other things, COIN requires public disclosure of offers and counter-offers on labor contracts, a more detailed financial analysis of proposed agreements and the posting of proposed agreements 30 days in advance of voting on their approval.

Supporters say it gives residents a better chance to weigh in on proposed labor agreements and helps prevent taxpayer costs from escalating due to benefit increases for workers.

Labor groups, meanwhile, argue that it singles out employees but not the private contractors who finance supervisors’ political campaigns and account for more than half of the county’s spending.  And they argued – so far successfully – that COIN’s passage last year violated requirements to meet and confer with employees under the state’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.

A judge invalidated key parts of the law, and County Counsel Leon Page has repeatedly stated that the county was open to legal liability if the ordinance wasn’t quickly suspended.

But earlier this month, supervisors decided in closed session, without any public debate or explanation, to reverse their agreement to suspend the law, sparking an angry response from union leaders.

This week’s suspension also comes as Gov. Jerry Brown considers whether to sign an OCEA-backed bill that would require agencies that have COIN in effect to follow similar procedures for private contracts.  The bill went to his office on Sept. 11; as of Wednesday evening no decision was announced.

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

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