Palo Alto firefighters have withdrawn their challenge to a ballot measure that would strike the binding-arbitration provision from the City Charter, city and union officials said Monday.
The firefighters filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on Aug. 1 seeking an injunction that would stop the labor-reform measure from appearing on the November ballot. If the voters pass the measure, contract disputes between the city and its public-safety unions would no longer be required to go to arbitration.
The council voted 5-4 last month to put the measure on the ballot after debating the issue for more than a year.
In its complaint, the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1319, argued that the city violated a state labor law by not conferring with the union before placing the measure on the ballot. The city responded by arguing that binding arbitration is not subject to a "meet and confer" requirement with unions.
Representatives from the union and from city management got together for a settlement conference on Aug. 4 to discuss the union's complaint. They have scheduled another meeting for Sept. 13 in PERB's Oakland office.
Meanwhile, the union has withdrawn its request for an injunction and asked the labor board not to take any action on the "unfair practice charge" until the second meeting takes place, according to a letter from the union's lawyer, Duane W. Reno.
Tony Spitaleri, president of the firefighters union, told the Weekly that the union decided to pull back its complaint pending further conversation with the city. It has also asked the labor-relations board to hold the unfair practice "in abeyance," which means it would remain in the court system but no action would be taken on it until a later date.
"We're still just having an ongoing discussion with them," Spitaleri said Monday, referring to the city's negotiators.
The union and the city are wrangling over the ballot measure at a time when the two sides remain in a prolonged and bitter standoff over a new contract. Their labor dispute, which began in spring 2010, is scheduled to go to binding arbitration in the fall and winter.
The binding-arbitration provision, which voters adopted in 1978, empowers a three-member panel to settle disputes between the city and its police and fire unions. Palo Alto is one of 22 cities in California that currently have such a requirement. Vallejo and Stockton have recently scrapped their respective binding-arbitration requirements and San Luis Obispo voters are scheduled to consider the issue in a mail-in election later this month.