From The Secretary

Charter Section A8.590 of the CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO provides The Membership of Local 798 with the following:

• The right to meet and confer for wages, hours, benefits and working conditions;
• Obligates the City to negotiate in good faith;
• Provides both parties with impasse resolution procedures.

For more than 2 years, the Executive Board of Local 798 met with Civil Service negotiators regarding the promotional process for the San Francisco Fire Department.

After impasse was declared by Civil Service negotiators, “statistically valid grouping” (an extremely broad system of banding) was presented to and adopted by the Civil Service Commission. The vote was 4-1 in favor to adopt.

Throughout the entire process, Local 798 maintained its right to seek arbitration per Charter Section A8.590. “Disputes or controversies pertaining to wages, hours, benefits or terms and condition of employment which remain unresolved after good faith negotiations between the CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, its departments, boards and commissions and the recognized employee organization representing firefighters shall be submitted to a three-member Board of Arbitrators upon declaration of an impasse by either of the authorized representatives of the CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO or by the recognized organization involved in the dispute”.

Civil Service negotiators, and the Civil Service Commission claimed they were empowered to act, had met their obligation to meet and confer with Local 798, per Charter Section A8.590, and denied our request to impasse resolution procedures.

Local 798 having exhausted all conceivable alternatives to resolve the issue was compelled to act on behalf of the membership. Therefore the Union petitioned the trial court for a writ of mandate seeking arbitration. On July 24, 2003, our case was heard in Superior Court, the Court held in favor of the City, our petition was denied.

Not to be deterred and following advice from our counsel, Diane Sidd-Champion of McCarthy, Johnson & Miller, we then filed an appeal in the First Appellate Court of the State of California. On December 15, 2004, attorneys for the San Francisco Firefighters and the CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO presented their respective oral arguments before the Court.

On January 20, 2005, the First Appellate Court rendered its decision. “The Court concluded that when a municipal agency makes a finding that triggers an expansion of its powers, that finding is subject to independent judicial review. When the official or agency simply exercises its discretion within the ordinary scope of its powers, its decisions are reviewed for abuse of discretion. Here, the City made a finding that expanded its powers under the Charter. The City may not unilaterally change the conditions of employment for firefighters, but must negotiate with the firefighters Union about proposed changes and if negotiations end in impasse, must submit the issue to binding arbitration”. The judgment of the trial court was reversed.

The decision issued by the First Appellate Court is a stunning victory for Local 798 and its membership. A fair and equitable promotional process based on merit factors has been our number one goal since the beginning of negotiations, more than 4 years ago.

The Civil Service Commissioners oath of office is characterized by brevity, “I am opposed to appointments to public service as a reward for political activity, and will execute the office in the spirit of this declaration.”

Yet, “statistically valid grouping” adopted by the Civil Service smacks of the possibility of political interference. A potent recipe for the resurrection of cronyism, nepotism and favoritism, this selection process would memorialize the “spoils system,” whose abrogation was the genesis for civil service reform.

My only regret throughout this whole process is that you the Membership have been held hostage from pursuing your careers. Let us hope that our differences of opinion with Civil Service will be resolved, and soon.

With that being said, Local 798 will endeavor to ensure that political patronage remains a covenant of the past.

Below is a listing of ranks and the last date the promotional list was posted for adoption coincides:

H4 Fire Prevention Posted 11-3-95
H6 Fire Investigation Posted 9-18-85
H20 Fire Lieutenant Posted 4-30-97
H30 Fire Captain Posted 11-28-94
H40 Battalion Chief Posted 4/98
H50 Division Chief Posted 1-12-87
H22 Fire Prevention, Lt. Posted 5-2-94
H24 Fire Investigation, Lt. Posted 5-2-94
H32 Fire Investigation, Captain Posted Not available, however, the last job announcement was discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Francis D. Kelly
Secretary, Local 798


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