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Californians Aware et al v. Joint Labor/Management Benefits Committee et al

November 10, 2011

CALIFORNIANS AWARE ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
JOINT LABOR/MANAGEMENT BENEFITS COMMITTEE ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, David P. Yaffe, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BS124856)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mosk, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs, petitioners, and appellants Californians Aware and Richard P. McKee (McKee) filed a verified petition for writ of mandate, an injunction, and declaratory relief against defendants, respondents, and respondents in this appeal the Los Angeles Community College District (District) and the Joint Labor/Management Benefits Committee (JLMBC) alleging that JLMBC failed to comply with the public notice and open meeting requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act). (Gov. Code, § 54950 et seq.*fn1 ) The trial court in denying the petition found that the JLMBC was not subject to the Brown Act because the JLMBC was formed to further the District's collective bargaining with the unions representing the District's employees and thus was exempt from the Brown Act under section 3549.1, subdivision (a), which is part of the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) (§ 3540 et seq.*fn2 ). Petitioners appeal. We affirm.

BACKGROUND*fn3

In or about 2002, the District entered into a "Master Benefits Agreement" (Agreement) with unions representing its employees*fn4 concerning hospital-medical, dental, vision group coverage, group life insurance coverage, and the District's employee assistance program. The unions are referred to in the Agreement as the "Exclusive Representatives" of the employees. Pursuant to the Agreement, the District was to convene, and the Exclusive Representatives were to participate in, the JLMBC. The JLMBC's purpose was to "contain the costs of the District's Health Benefits Program while maintaining and, when feasible, improving the quality of the benefits available to employees."

Prior to adoption of the Agreement, the District's six bargaining units each had a separate article in their collective bargaining agreements that addressed health benefits. Those articles were inconsistent, resulting in coverage disparities. One of the Agreement's purposes was to ensure common benefits throughout the District. Under the Agreement, the District's Health Benefits Program consisted of "group benefit plans recommended by the Joint Labor/Management Benefits Committee and approved by the Board under which eligible District employees (and their eligible dependents) receive hospital, medical, dental, and vision care coverage. The purpose of the Health Benefits Program is to provide quality health care to the District's employees, retirees, and their eligible dependents and survivors."

The JLMBC was composed of "one voting and one non-voting District Member" (District Members); six "Employee Members," one from each of the Exclusive Representatives; and the "Chair" who was to be nominated by the president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild and confirmed by a simple majority of the regular voting members. Each Exclusive Representative could appoint non-voting members in proportion to the size of each bargaining unit. The JLMBC had authority to:

"1. review the District's Health Benefits Program and effect any changes to the program it deems necessary to contain costs while maintaining the quality of the benefits available to employees (this includes, but is not limited to, the authority to substitute other plans for the District's existing health benefits plans);

"2. recommend the selection, replacement, and evaluation of benefits consultants;

"3. recommend the selection, replacement, and evaluation of benefit plan providers;

"4. review and make recommendations regarding communications to faculty and staff regarding the health benefits program and their ...


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