Tuesday, December 14, 2010

County of Los Angeles v. LA County Employee Relations Comm. (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 15, 2010)

I was on a plane and out-and-about nearly all day, but when I returned to the intertube this evening, I saw this case.  Which made me feel just fine, and seems to strike an entirely appropriate balance.

Some LA County employees are represented by the SIEU, but don't have to pay certain portions of union dues if they don't want to, even though the union is required to represent them.  Fair enough.  The SIEU wants contact information for these quasi-members so it can properly represent their interests.  Fair enough as well.  But L.A. County doesn't feel like giving it out, reasoning that some of these members might not want the union to have this information.  Fair enough as well.

So the Court of Appeal holds that, as a matter of state constitutional law, the members have a protected privacy right in their information, and that before disclosure, they should receive notice and an opportunity to opt out.  That seems like a pretty fine balance.  Especially, in my view, since these individuals get an annual Hudson notice anyway, and it's easy to supplement that information with notice that the union wants their contact information and an opportunity to object if they don't want that to happen.  Seems reasonable.

Two quick points.  First, here's an example of a state court using state constitutional provisions that are more expansive than federal law.  I like that.  It doesn't happen much.  Or as often as it should.

Second, in this particular case, I couldn't help wondering about preemption.  The Court of Appeal doesn't talk about it, so I assume that federal labor law doesn't apply (even though at least one of the lower tribunals relied upon federal law in ordering disclosure).  At least for those uneducated readers such as myself, my curiosity would have been satiated by a single footnote or something reminding me why state law wasn't preempted.  Maybe it was there and I missed it.  Entirely possible.  But it was a lingering question for me.

But, all in all, I thought this one was pretty fair and balanced.  Like Fox News.

(Just kidding about the reference.  Obviously.)