Saturday, October 4, 2008

Collective Bargaining in California (1975)

The Rodda Project: The Story of SB 160

Albert Rodda's best-known legislation is Senate Bill 160—usually simply cited as “the Rodda Act”—which established collective bargaining for California's public school teachers.

This undated document from the Senator's files contains a record of his extemporaneous remarks on the significance of his legislation, so it is most likely from the latter part of 1975, when SB 160 was signed by the Governor Brown. There is no indication of the venue in which the Senator delivered his speech.


Collective Bargaining in California

Breakthrough in California

(Extemporaneous Remarks)

Senator Albert S. Rodda

My purpose tonight is briefly to provide some historical background and perhaps make some comments about the critical issues which are affected by the collective bargaining legislation. I'll begin my presentation with reference to the original Winton Act. I was in the Legislature when the Winton Act was passed, and I voted against it although, as a freshman senator in 1958, I was committed to collective bargaining for teachers. I had been at one time president of Local #31 of the California Federation of Teachers in Sacramento. This involvement had influenced my thinking on this issue.

As a teacher, I was of the opinion—having had some experience in matters affecting the professional status of teachers—that they should have an opportunity to negotiate in a more meaningful way with administrators and school board members. So I was supportive of the Winton Act in concept and of collective bargaining in principle. But I voted against the Winton Act on the Floor because of the manner in which those who were on the so-called negotiating council were chosen. There was no exclusive negotiation and no exclusive representation, and in the Senate the word “confer”—not even confer in good faith—was substituted by amendment for the word “negotiate,” which was contained in the Assembly version of the bill. So we ended up with a law which provided for a “negotiating council” which merely conferred and which did not provide for exclusive representation; so I voted “no.”

We are familiar with the fact that the Winton Act was not implemented very well in some districts and, as a consequence, in about 1970, Senator Newton Russell, then Assemblyman, introduced a bill which would significantly have amended the Winton Act. The bill was sponsored, as I recall, by the California School Boards Association. I introduced a bill which was sponsored by the author. We finally reached a consensus and the Russell bill became law. My bill was dropped; although the bills were amended so that they were identical, and the Winton Act was, thus, amended by the Russell-Rodda Act. So, it is the Winton-Russell Act which was amended by SB 160.

The Russell Act was substantive in some respects. In the first place, it contained a definition of impasse. And it introduced language into the Winton Act requiring the parties to confer in a conscientious effort to reach an agreement, which is a little bit better and stronger than just the meet-and-confer provision. There was no written contract, but there was provision for mediation; there was provision for factfinding, but not for publication of the recommendation of the factfinder; so even that legislation fell short of collective bargaining. The Russell Act did contain the same provisions relating to the strike as did the original Winton Act—reference to the Labor Code which courts had interpreted to deny the right of concerted action or the strike—but there were no provisions for a written contract and, of course, no provision for exclusive representation. The absence of a contract provision became an issue in the Los Angeles teacher's strike, which occurred about the same time the Russell Act went into effect.

At that time, the California Teachers Association—and please don't interpret my remarks with reference to any organization as being polarized or biased—did not favor collective bargaining for teachers, while the CFT did. The following year, however, CTA changed its historic position of opposition to one of support. My recollection is that in the same year Senator Dymally authored a substantive collective bargaining bill which was sponsored by both the CTA and the CFT. It was legislation that would have covered employees in the public education system from Kindergarten through the university; the bill was considered in the Senate Education Committee and died there. I voted against it because I believed that we should try to make the newly enacted Russell amendments work.

There was a great deal of momentum being generated for legislation because of the CTA support of collective bargaining. The rivalry between the two organizations, the CTA and the CFT, for collective bargaining legislation for public employees in the public education sector became very intense. In addition, the economies imposed upon higher education by Governor Reagan had the effect of intensifying union activity within the two systems of higher education, especially in the State University and Colleges System, where the whole concept of collegiality had not developed to the extent it had on the University of California campuses. As a result, the California State University faculty moved toward an approach to the problem of employee-employer relations which was more oriented toward the union model—the collective bargaining model. Looking at the membership lists of teacher organizations during those critical years, you'll find that they showed rather dramatic increases, and that fact of life created more pressure. The CFT had long supported collective bargaining, which meant that the School Administrators and the School Board members were fighting a rather difficult and almost losing battle on this issue.

Following Senator Dymally's effort, Senator Moscone became involved as principal author of legislation in 1973. The bill was SB 400 and it included within its coverage employees in public education from Kindergarten through the university system. There were five critical issues: (1) the inclusion of the two segments of higher education; (2) definition of scope; (3) language with reference to strike; (4) the agency shop; and (5) management rights. When the Moscone bill was under consideration, supported by teachers in all segments of public education, the Administrators and the School Board members testified to the effect that it lacked certain language they thought was important and that the language contained in the bill was too far-reaching in some respects. Their concern was the absence of language with reference to strike, the wide-open definition of scope of bargaining, provision for the agency shop, and the lack of the provision with respect to management rights. And, of course, the bill was opposed by the Regents of the University of California and the Board of Trustees of the California State University and Colleges System. I told Senator Moscone, when the bill was presented to the Senate Education Committee, to sit down and try to work out a compromise.

The bill came back before the Senate Education Committee the following week, but there was no compromise. The Administrators and School Board members were not the only uncompromising individuals. The uncompromising people were also the teachers, because they had political muscle in the Legislature and they knew, in a sense, that this piece of legislation would not become law because Governor Reagan would not sign it under any circumstances. I voted for the bill. It went to the Governor and he vetoed it.

In 1972, I had chaired Senate Education Committee interim hearings on this subject, but when the Moscone bill was under consideration in 1973, I did not introduce legislation because I wanted a compromise or consensus piece of legislation to be considered seriously and I knew what was going to happen with respect to the Moscone legislation. I had been in politics long enough to know what the scene would be. I knew that no one would think about a compromise bill; so why waste my time? In that year, however, I assigned Mr. John Bukey to do the principal work in reference to collective bargaining. Mr. Jerry Hayward and Mr. John Bukey, consultants to the Senate Education Committee, and I met in my constituency with School Board members and School Administrators at their request, and they said that they wanted to cooperate in an effort to improve the existing law, because they recognized it had significant deficiencies. I said, “Well, there's no point in my undertaking that kind of task unless you are willing to make some compromises; I have to work with the teacher groups; you're going to have to work with the teacher groups; we're all going to have to work together.” They agreed to such an arrangement.

At that time, I told John Bukey to study the findings of the interim committee hearing, to look at the legislative proposal made by the local group and to consult with the teachers in the various segments of education, and to try to develop a legislative consensus. The idea was to obtain comments from all parties so that I could affirm that all groups had had an opportunity to examine the legislation, to know what the intent was and, therefore, an opportunity to respond in a constructive way.

I stated at the time in response to the proposal made by the local group that “I was willing to introduce legislation and that I would try to achieve a compromise.” Incidentally, a politician may not use the word compromise; so I observed that I would struggle to achieve what we will call a “consensus.” So we strove for consensus and I said, “If I ever obtain consensus in the Senate, I will fight off amendments in the other House introduced by any element involved in this legislative activity which would change substantively the provisions of the legislation,” because if such amendments were made, they would create a bias and there would be no consensus. The bill, which was developed, pursuant to that effort, was SB 1857, and the year was 1974.

Fortunately, we did develop a degree of consensus and John Bukey and I conferred with people throughout the state on the legislation. The United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Classified School Employees of Los Angeles supported the bill despite the fact that it continued the Winton Act language with reference to the strike; despite the fact that it had a restricted definition of scope; and despite the fact that it did not include provision for the agency shop. They also accepted the management rights language. But some teachers challenged me that year with the charge that the bill was “an outright betrayal of teachers.” I argued that “there were some substantive improvements in the bill over existing law.” The bill provided for a written contract; for exclusive negotiation; and there were provisions for impasse negotiations, including mediation and public factfinding with recommendations. These were substantive changes, in my view, I observed. And I also commented on the positive aspects of the creation of a state board and the possibility of binding arbitration of contract, or “rights” disputes.

Meanwhile the courts were interpreting the Winton Act as a consequence of litigation and various decisions were handed down. These various interpretations were helpful in stimulating among the School Administrators and School Board members a desire for a law which could be interpreted in a uniform manner and which would make sense and improve negotiations with teachers. But they did not reach that position overnight. The leadership representing the School Boards and the School Administrators had to travel about the state educating their people and urging them to take a more positive attitude toward the legislation. And I commend them for that effort; without that effort I never could have obtained the kind of support for the bill that emerged. The teachers, from their perspective, were not totally negative, but the two principal organizations, the CTA and the CFT, remained in opposition throughout 1974.

I included the community college system in the original version of the bill. That was my decision. But I excluded the two segments of higher education—the University of California and the State University and Colleges System because there are differences in their internal governance which I did not fully comprehend, but which were of such a nature that they justified in my mind a separate bill or their inclusion in a bill which would cover all state employees. The inclusion of the community colleges was justified because of the similarity of governmental organization and finance to the Kindergarten-12 schools. They were, therefore, included despite the fact that there were problems with respect to the community college academic senates or faculty councils and their involvement in decisions affecting educational policy. I thought we could, with appropriate language, however, resolve that issue. But during the 1974 session I could not bring the community colleges into any kind of an agreement; so I personally deleted them from the legislation, which, of course, was SB 1857.

That legislation, the first product of the consensus effort, in the year 1974, moved to the Assembly, having the approval of the Senate, as I have described it to you, and having the support of the elements I mentioned—School Boards, School Administrators, UTLA and the Classified School Employees of Los Angeles, and a few chapters of CTA and the CFT local in San Francisco. It was opposed by the faculty of the University of California and the State University and Colleges System because they wanted a comprehensive bill; they wanted to be included and they were afraid that if a bill became law which excluded them, they would be left out permanently. SB 1857 failed in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee by one vote, after having been approved by the Assembly Education Committee.

The following year, 1975, I introduced SB 160, which was virtually identical to SB 1857. I did so with grave reservations because Speaker Moretti had introduced in 1974 a comprehensive bill, AB 1243, to include all public employees, which died in the Senate policy committee. And, in the same year, 1974, Senator Dills had introduced—and I had voted for— legislation (SB 32) to provide collective bargaining for local government employees. The Dills' bill was approved by the Senate and moved to the Assembly, where it perished because the Speaker was determined to enact a comprehensive bill. The significance of this action is that total emphasis was to be the enactment of comprehensive, not piecemeal legislation. The Moretti bill was assigned to interim hearings and I was on the joint committee that conducted the interim hearings. The entire intent was to achieve enactment of the comprehensive legislation. The Assembly leadership, Senator Dills, and the new Governor were committed to such action, as were all teacher organizations throughout 1975.

As the 1975 session proceeded, I accepted amendments to SB 160 with reference to the definition of scope which was modestly broadened, and I also introduced compromise language with reference to agency shop. And it is important to understand that an agency shop agreement under the provisions of the bill is a matter which may be negotiated. If a school board wishes to allow it, it may introduce such a provision into the contract; the issue would then have to be submitted to all affected employees for a vote. If the affected employees vote yes, it will be necessary for every employee in that group to pay a services rendered cost fee. The legislation does not provide, however, for compulsory membership; it does not require a union shop. Furthermore, if there is an organization which is competing with another organization to be the exclusive representative, and it loses the election, only the winning organization may have the right of dues deduction. If an organization does not want to compete for the right of exclusive negotiation, if it desires to be only educational organization, it may state that to be a fact with reference to its intent and purpose, and it may then have the right of dues deduction for its membership. This language has been objected to by some organizations because of their position of opposition to exclusive negotiation and to membership protection provisions.

After these amendments, especially the change in the definition of scope and agency shop were adopted, and also after the defeat of all of the comprehensive collective bargaining bills, the teacher groups, the CFT and CTA, began to be more responsive to the bill, SB 160.

During the entire negotiations the School Administrators and the School Boards had accepted the bill as amended and did everything they could to help achieve its enactment. It was because the bill finally had the support of the major elements of the educational community that I was able to achieve favorable action by the Legislature and place the bill on the Governor's desk.

We introduced one major amendment to satisfy the Governor; we changed the membership of the Board. The Board was to have had five members originally, but we reduced the membership to three, all of whom were to be appointed by the Governor. These individuals, it was recognized, might in the future function in the administration of a law affecting all public employees in the state; the Board membership could then be expanded. If that amendment had not been accepted, we would not now have a teacher collective bargaining law. I am convinced of that.

We all kept faith with each other, and it was that kind of conscientious effort that solved a very difficult problem. The School Boards and the School Administrators wanted the law because of the Winton Act's wide open definition of scope as interpreted by the courts; they wanted a negotiating council which spoke for the majority of the teachers; they wanted a vehicle in law which could be interpreted by a state board—the Educational Employment Relations Board—so that everyone concerned could know what the law was, what the standards were, and what the rules and regulations were statewide. And I think that the law has provisions which are for the benefit of the teachers, too. They recognized this; thus, they fully supported it.

The new law is no panacea; its success will largely be determined by the objectivity of its administration by the Board. The educational community has acted responsibly; the Legislature has acted responsibly; it is now the obligation of the Board to act responsibly.

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