California Supreme Court Backs City over Union

In a ruling that has surprised the skeptics, California’s Supreme Court has affirmed the right of a city to lay off municipal workers to balance their budget. In the ruling, Justice Joyce Kennard said that under California law, “a local public entity that is faced with a decline in revenues or other financial adversity may unilaterally decide to lay off some of its employees.”

One has to wonder what the Richmond, California Association of Firefighters was thinking when they filed a lawsuit after refusing to renegotiate any of the terms of their existing contract and offered no concessions to allow the city to maintain the current workforce.

The fact that California’s Supreme Court has ruled on the side of common sense offers a glimmer of hope in the ongoing desperate challenge to restore fiscal solvency to California’s state and local governments. A big variable affecting court rulings in the future may hinge on when the current justices elect to begin their retirements – California’s Supreme Court justices are appointed by the Governor, after all.

For more on this ruling read Elizabeth Cohee’s latest column, “A Labor Union Plays Chicken – and Loses,” posted in the Oakland Business Examiner on January 26, 2010.

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