|Vallejo Police Officers’ Assn. v. City of Vallejo
(Cal. Court of Appeal, 1st Appellate Dist., Div. 2, Case No. A144987)
On August 22, 2017, the First Appellate District issued an important decision, upholding the City of Vallejo’s decision to reduce its contributions towards police officers’ future, retiree health insurance premiums. In so holding, the court recognized and applied the standards articulated in Retired Employees Assn. of Orange County, Inc. v. County of Orange (2011) 52 Cal.4th 1171 (REAOC), finding that a “vested” right to retiree health benefits may not be inferred from a labor agreement – that is fixed in duration – absent “a clear basis in the contract or convincing extrinsic evidence.”
After participating in state-mandated advisory factfinding, the City unilaterally implemented its final offer on retiree medical contributions, reducing its direct medical contribution to $300 per month for active VPOA members and retirees. Thereafter, VPOA filed a petition for writ of mandate with the Solano County Superior Court, claiming that the City engaged in bad faith bargaining in violation of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA) and unlawfully impaired its members’ vested right to receive retiree health benefits at the full Kaiser North rate. The superior court denied VPOA’s petition and entered a judgment in the City’s favor. VPOA appealed.
COURT OF APPEAL’S DECISION
The court also found that VPOA failed to present “convincing extrinsic evidence” of a vested right. During the superior court proceedings, VPOA submitted declarations on behalf of individuals who signed the 2009 Agreement as evidence of the parties’ intent to provide a vested right to fully-paid retiree health benefits. The court, however, held these declarations were irrelevant since under REAOC, only “the City’s intent determines the rights, express or implied, created by the 2009 Agreement” and, therefore, “[t]he subjective understanding of individuals, as well as understandings communicated outside the approval process, are not admissible as evidence of the City’s intent.”
Additionally, the court noted that during the negotiations preceding the 2009 Agreement, VPOA submitted a proposal that “could be read to provide a vested right to the full Kaiser premium.” The court found the City’s rejection of that proposal contradicted VPOA’s claim that in entering into the 2009 Agreement, the City intended to provide a vested right to a retiree medical benefit at the full Kaiser rate.
With regard to VPOA’s MMBA claim, the court found that substantial evidence supported the superior court’s finding that the City did not engage in surface bargaining, noting that “[t]he City stood firm on its position that it would contribute only $300 per month toward retiree medical premiums, but that does not in itself constitute surface bargaining.” Similarly, the court rejected VPOA’s claim that the City prematurely declared impasse, explaining that “[t]he extended period of negotiation, the parties’ exchanges of proposals and the two-month period between the last exchange of proposals and the declaration of impasse constitute substantial evidence that the City did not rush to impasse, but rather declared impasse in response to deadlock.”
A copy of the Vallejo decision is available here: