City Did Not Need To “Meet And Confer” With Union Before Hiring Retirees To Alleviate Short-Term Staffing Shortage


In Sacramento Police Officers Association v. City of Sacramento (2004 Daily Journal D.A.R. 5033, Cal.App. 3 Dist., Mar. 30, 2004), the California Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether a city violated the Meyers-Millias-Brown Act (MMB) when it did not “meet and confer” with a police officers’ union before implementing a policy to hire retirees to solve a short-term staffing shortage.


Due to enhanced retirement pay and resulting retirements, the City of Sacramento faced a significant shortage of police officers. To accommodate the period needed to train new officers, City decided to use retirees as part-time, non-career, temporary employees to fill vacancies until the police department could replenish with new recruits. The Sacramento Police Officers Association (Union) objected to City’s decision and filed a lawsuit asking the court to direct City and the police department to “meet and confer” with Union in compliance with the MMB before implementing the retiree policy. The trial court granted Union’s request.

Appellate Court Decision

Under § 3505 of the MMB, public agencies must meet and confer about proposed changes in the status quo regarding the terms and conditions of employment if the change is within the scope of representation. The “scope of representation” broadly includes “all matters relating to employment conditions and employer-employee relations.” (Gov. Code § 3504) However, there is an exception to the definition of “scope of representation” for “fundamental managerial policy decisions that involve matters at the core of management control of the basic direction of an enterprise.”

Here, the Court concluded that City’s policy fell within this exception because the policy involved a fundamental management prerogative – “the manner of responding expeditiously to a labor market shortage in a department affecting the public safety.” The Court based its decision on evidence that urgency prompted City’s plan to use retirees; the city council determined the policy was the proper feasible degree of protection for City’s residents; and there was a temporary labor shortage that could not otherwise be filled with Union members.

The Court therefore sent the case back and directed the trial court to deny Union’s request.

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