A bill that would require the California Public Employment Relations Board to allow sworn peace officers to separate from non-sworn employees in one of the state's bargaining units is facing some opposition from those who claim it would set a precedent for groups to be able to override the board's decisions.
Senate Bill 252 by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, would grant a petition to allow the sworn peace officers in Bargaining Unit 7, Protective Services and Public Safety, represented by the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA), to form their own bargaining unit.
If the group, which calls itself the Peace Officers of California, is successful, the move would create a 22nd bargaining unit representing some 2,700 law enforcement officers currently in Bargaining Unit 7.
Bill supporters argue that the sworn peace officers are being denied a right extended to the state's other sworn peace officers. Non-sworn peace officers in Bargaining Unit 7 include milk inspectors and driver license examiners.
"The peace officers have completely different standards of work," said Jerry Karnow, president of the California Fish and Game Warden Association, one of the bill's cosponsors.
Bill supporters argue that it is unfair for sworn and non-sworn officers to receive the same benefits, such as enhanced public safety benefits that only sworn peace officers should be getting.
Karnow said 34 percent of the current union membership is made up of sworn peace officers and 66 percent of the union members are civilians.
"We need to be able to negotiate contracts on our own," Karnow said. "When it comes to negotiating, we have to include the non-sworn people, and they (the government) don't want to pay for that."
Karnow added that the government had previously pushed to increase benefits to sworn peace officials but were unable to do so because the bargaining unit decided everyone would have to receive the same benefits.
He said that if the sworn peace officials were their own bargaining unit, the government could save money by not having to give benefits given to sworn peace officials to more employees.
An administrative law judge ruled against the group in 2009, finding that the existing bargaining unit was appropriate under state law. According to a bill analysis, opponents argue that the measure would set a precedent of allowing disgruntled state bargaining units to override board decisions.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, California Faculty Association, California Nurses Association and California Professional Firefighters are among the many unions opposed to the measure.
Other co-sponsors include American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the California State Park Peace Officers Association.
SB 252 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Assembly Public Employees Committee.