This section is dedicated to answering questions which are frequently asked by the membership. Typically, it will concern a current issue, such as what is happening in bargaining, rather than a general question, such as what are PECG’s goals and purposes. It may also include some common questions about representation and your rights.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in this space, just call, fax (916) 446-0489 or e-mail the PECG office. If several members are concerned about the same issue, we will address it here.

What is the process for negotiating a contract for Unit 9 employees?

The contract or “Memorandum of Understanding” is negotiated by bargaining teams from PECG and the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA). The contract covers wages, benefits, working conditions, and related topics. State employees are divided into 21 bargaining units, plus supervisors and managers, in a process overseen by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). One of those units is Unit 9, representing engineers and related professional employees. PECG negotiates on behalf of Unit 9 because the employees voted for PECG as their representative many years ago. DPA represents the Governor, who is considered to be the state employer. All of this is established in a portion of the Government Code called the Dills Act.

Typically, the contracts or MOUs have a duration of two or three years and terminate on June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year. This is because money is appropriated by the Legislature (and approved by the Governor) based on their fiscal year and the Legislature must approve the money for any agreement or MOU before it takes effect. Thus, there is an effort to have the contracts coincide with the fiscal year. PECG’s prior MOU was a five-year contract through July 2, 2008.

The process typically begins with a Bargaining Priorities Questionnaire distributed to PECG members so that they can establish the issues and their priorities for the PECG Bargaining Team. That team consists of seven Unit 9 employees from various departments, classes, and geographical areas, assisted by professional negotiators. There is also a committee consisting of Vice Presidents (Unit 9 PECG members) from each of PECG’s seventeen Sections to provide assistance to the Bargaining Team.

The PECG Bargaining Team prepares and presents the initial proposal for a new contract to DPA during the spring. At this point, theory and practice are no longer the same.

In theory, DPA should respond and the parties should attempt to negotiate an agreement to present to the Legislature before the budget is finalized in June. In practice, DPA has historically (under every administration) waited until after the budget passes and then begins negotiating, once the state budget’s financial picture is clearer. Thus, bargaining can drag on after a contract’s term has ended, through the summer or even into subsequent years before agreement is reached.

Provisions of the agreement, such as salary increases, may be retroactive, or they may not take place until a certain date established in the contract. In some cases, such as changes to the retirement plan, legislation is required, but that is not a problem. It is simply incorporated into the bill which goes with the agreement to the Legislature for their approval. At the same time, after an agreement is reached between the PECG and DPA Bargaining Teams, it is presented to the PECG Unit 9 members for their approval or rejection.

Once a contract is approved by the PECG membership and the Legislature, it is printed and distributed to PECG members and management. If there is a violation of the agreement during its term, grievances or other actions can be filed to enforce it.

I’ve heard a lot about deep classes. What is the status?

Deep classes provide for automatic salary movement up through a Unit 9 class series without taking exams and waiting for promotions. PECG and DPA have negotiated numerous deep classes covering thousands of Unit 9 employees.

Why does PECG contribute money to legislators?

The Governor and the Legislature are the decision-making employers of all PECG members. They are responsible for negotiating the Memorandum of Understanding with PECG for Unit 9 employees, appropriating the funds for pay and benefit increases, passing the laws and regulations governing the civil service system, and many other activities which significantly affect the daily lives of our members.

PECG has contributed political action funds to candidates and office holders based on the compatibility of their philosophy and their record compared to the goals and interests of PECG members. Any member who doesn’t want any of his/her dues to be used for political contributions need only notify the PECG office.

What are “Weingarten” Rights?

Under the Dills Act, the collective bargaining law for rank-and-file state employees, an employee has a right to representation at an investigatory interview which the employee reasonably believes might result in discipline. (State of California (Department of Forestry) (1988) PERB Decision No. 690-S) This right is based upon the Supreme Court decision in NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc. (1975) 420 U.S. 251.

In Weingarten situations, the key inquiry is whether the interview is investigatory and of the type that might lead to disciplinary action. This “is an objective inquiry based upon a reasonable evaluation of all the circumstances, not upon the subjective reaction of the employee.” (Alfred M. Lewis, Inc. v. NLRB (9th Cir. 1978) 587 F.2d 403.) In situations where the employee faces an investigatory interview, the employer must inform the employee of the nature of any charge of impropriety before the meeting. This is so the employee can meaningfully exercise the right to representation. There is no right to representation where the purpose of the meeting is simply to deliver notice of the discipline and not to “elicit damaging facts” or possibly modify the discipline. (See State of California (Department of California Highway Patrol) (1997) PERB Decision No. 1210-S adopting decision of administrative law judge.) However, where the employer comes to the meeting prepared to discuss modification of the discipline the right to representation re-attaches.

If you have questions about representation, please contact a PECG office.