Unfair Labor Charge Obtained Against Fullerton for Failing to Meet and Confer over Aid Agreement

Ferrone & Ferrone and the Fullerton Firefighters’ Association, International Association of  Firefighters, Local 3421, have obtained an unfair labor charge against the City of Fullerton for failing to  meet and confer over its decision to enter into an auto-aid agreement with the City of Placentia.

On June 16, 2020, the City Council for the City of Fullerton unilaterally approved an auto-aid  agreement with the City of Placentia. An auto-aid agreement is typically a formal standing agreement  between agencies for cooperative emergency management on a continuing basis, but where there is  reciprocity of resource exchange. There is typically no exchange of revenue in these arrangements, because  both sides receive reciprocity of like resources. Reciprocity of like resources is crucial to the safety of  firefighters, to insure that each agency is providing safe, fully trained, career firefighters, with adequate  support staff and equipment.

According to the Orange County Fire Authority, the City of Placentia’s “delivery model will not be  able to provide the number of reciprocal or like services. . .”, and due to the number of reserve personnel  utilized, will have “significantly lower level of skills/training,” and “will not possess the same training and  will be unable to safely operate on many of the incidents when needed.” See OCFA Board Meeting, March  26, 2020. The City of Placentia had just created its own Fire Department, and its existence was solely  dependent upon outside agencies subsidizing it. Placentia was able to convince its constituency that  creating its own Fire Department would actually save money, but that was dependent upon providing  deficient services and expecting other cities to fill in the extreme gaps.

Prior to June 16, 2020, FF notified the City that the decision to enter into this auto aid agreement  was within the scope of representation, and that the City of Fullerton had a statutory obligation to meet and  confer with Local 3421 prior to its agreement. The decision is negotiable because it impacts, among other  things, firefighter safety, workload, staffing and overtime opportunities. The City disagreed, and refused to  negotiate. On March 26, 2021, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) agreed, and issued a  Charge against the City of Fullerton. The Charge means that, once the allegations are proven, the City will  have been deemed to have violated state law by refusing to meet and confer with Local 3421. The PERB  has the authority to overturn and set aside the auto aid agreement, and order the City to return to the status  quo and engage in bargaining with Local 3421, and make each and every member whole for any damages  they have sustained by the City’s unlawful action. The City would also be required to post notice of their  illegal actions throughout all City facilities. 

The decision would have tremendous effects throughout the state, and would reinforce the collective  bargaining rights of all Locals to bargain over auto and/or mutual aid agreements that exist between  agencies. For these Locals, and Local 3421, it would provide them a seat at the table to discuss whether  forcing its firefighters to work in certain environments is a wise practice.

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