An arbitrator and a superior court judge had ruled that the negotiated raises were valid. The appellate court said today that the raises weren't valid because the Legislature didn't sign off on them.
SEIU Local 1000 declined to comment on the ruling.
The case dates back to 2006 and agreements negotiated between then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Local 1000.
The administration and the union that year sent agreements to the Legislature giving pay raises of up to 10 percent to medical employees, including nurses, that would kick in Jan. 1, 2007. Lawmakers approved the pacts in September 2006.
The very next month, a federal court determined that the state's prison medical care system was inadequate. Among the remedies it ordered: pay increases retroactive to Sept. 1, 2006, for those same employees. The court-ordered raises exceeded the negotiated raises.
The state refused to apply the bargained raises on top of the federally-ordered pay increases, "generally taking the view that they had been superseded by the larger (federally-mandated) increases," the appellate court's summary of the case says.
Local 1000 took the matter to arbitration and then to Sacramento Superior court, winning both times with the argument that the negotiated increases had to be applied to whatever salary ranges existed on Jan. 1, 2007.
The appellate court said the Legislature was not made explicitly aware that the contractual raises would be applied on top of a federally-ordered raise and therefore lawmakers didn't approve what the union wanted. The way to get the raise, the three-justice decision said, "is to obtain passage of a bill approving the higher salaries, a remedy squarely in the political realm."
CalHR v. SEIU Local 1000