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PERB Voids San Francisco Strike Ban

August 2, 2023 by

PERB has issued a new decision striking down provisions of the San Francisco City Charter banning all city employee strikes as an unlawful violation of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”).

San Francisco’s City Charter The Charter outlaws public employee strikes and seeks to utilize interest arbitration as the exclusive means of resolving bargaining disputes. These provisions are controversial and have been challenged many times, but this PERB ruling is the most significant rejection of San Francisco’s anti-union charter to date.

State Law and City Charters The California Legislature drafted MMBA to leave cities and counties some home rule authority to establish local rules with their charters. San Francisco argued that its ban on strikes was a legitimate exercise of the City’s home rule authority.

PERB disagreed. Settled law prohibits cities and counties from exercising home rule authority with regard to matters of statewide concern. PERB concluded that the right to strike embedded in the MMBA is a matter of statewide concern, and thus one the City cannot ban. PERB left in place Charter section A8.409-4(a), which allows the City sole discretion to decline interest arbitration with a union that has engaged in an economic strike. The City can still validly require unions to choose between an economic strike and interest arbitration during a particular contract negotiation cycle.

The New PERB Decision For city and county workers in San Francisco, this decision means that they can strategize and threaten to strike without fear of termination. Public sector strikes may still be limited if they present an imminent threat of harm to public health or safety, but this PERB ruling has removed a universal strike ban from the City Charter thus increasing the leverage of most all San Francisco city employees.1 For California public sector workers more generally, this means that PERB is prohibiting all cities and counties from categorically banning strikes in their charters, strengthening labor rights across the state.

1. Note that police and firefighters do not have a right to strike.


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