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San Luis Obispo Repeal of Binding Arbitration, Measure B (August 2011)

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A San Luis Obispo Repeal of Binding Arbitration ballot question was on the August 30, 2011 ballot in San Luis Obispo County for voters in the City of San Luis Obispo.[1] Measure B was overwhelmingly approved.[2]

Measure B was on the same ballot as Measure A. Measure A was also overwhelmingly approved.[2]

Measure B changes the city's rules governing binding arbitration.[3] The city's voters approved binding arbitration in 2000. This means that when the city and public safety unions can't reach agreement on a contract, an arbiter makes the final decision. In June 2008, an arbiter gave sworn police officers a 30% raise. The same arbiter gave police dispatchers a 37% raise over a 4-year contract.[1]

The vote on the measure was conducted on a mail-in basis.[4]

Election results

Measure B
Approveda Yes 7,723 72.67%
Official final election results from the San Luis Obispo elections office (dead link) as of 2:26 p.m. on August 30, 2011.



Citizens for SLO.PNG

The official voter guide arguments supporting Measure B were signed by:

  • Jan Marx, Mayor of San Luis Obispo
  • Andrew Carter, San Luis Obispo City Council Member
  • Dave Romero, Former San Luis Obispo Mayor
  • Ken Schwartz, Former San Luis Obispo Mayor
  • John Ewan, Former San Luis Obispo City Council Member
  • Paul Brown, Former San Luis Obispo City Council Member
  • Christine Mulholland, Former San Luis Obispo City Council Member

Arguments in favor

  • "Mandatory binding arbitration is unfair to local residents. It lets an out-of-town arbitrator dictate pay and benefits for San Luis Obispo police and firefighters. The arbitrator doesn’t live here, doesn’t know our community, and doesn’t need to consider what must be cut from the budget to finance the award. The arbitrator’s decision is final and can’t be overturned. When residents voted in binding arbitration, they couldn’t have imagined the consequences. Now they know, all too well."
  • "In 2008, an out-of-town arbitrator gave San Luis Obispo police an unbudgeted $4 million increase over four years – that’s a 30% pay raise when inflation was only 11%. Many officers got an additional 22% raise for years of service. The on-going annual cost of that award is $2.5 million, which represents more than half the City’s current structural budget gap."
  • "Due to the award, City Council had to eliminate $1.6 million in street and sidewalk improvements, $600,000 in flood protection projects, $300,000 in parks and open space projects, and $500,000 in public safety projects, including two hoped for neighborhood police officers. Higher per officer pay meant fewer officers on the street. Before the award, San Luis Obispo police were the highest paid in the county. Now, they’re paid more than Los Angeles police."
  • "California courts have ruled binding arbitration unconstitutional for general law cities. Only Charter cities, like ours, can adopt it. Only 21 of 482 California cities have adopted binding arbitration. It has recently been repealed by the voters in two cities."


"Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility," which supported Measures A and B, raised $35,108 through August 15.[5]


No on A and B.PNG


The official voter guide arguments opposing Measure B were signed by:

  • Erik S. Baskin, President, IAFF L3523 San Luis Obispo City Firefighters
  • Jack O’Connell
  • Sherri Stoddard, RN, Director Region 3, California Nurses Association/National Nurses United
  • Don A. Ernst
  • Katcho Achadjian, a member of the California State Assembly

Arguments against

  • "Binding arbitration is an efficient resolution tool that was enacted by a significant majority of SLO City voters in 2000 and defines a fair negotiating process for our first responders. Prior to binding arbitration, first responders, firefighters and police often went years with unresolved contract issues. There was no incentive for both sides to fairly negotiate to reach a timely and just resolution and impasses that affect public safety dragged on extensively leaving the public vulnerable."
  • "Binding arbitration allows the city or the firefighters or police officers to request an outside arbitrator who must consider factors like the city finances, the last offers at the bargaining table, and other issues that affect response times and public safety if a resolution cannot be reached in regular negotiations. That provides the city, the firefighters and cops a level playing field and incentive to negotiate contracts that affect our community’s ability to react and respond to emergencies efficiently and in good faith."
  • According to Erik Baskin, the president of the San Luis Obispo firefighters union, "people will die" if Measures A and B are approved.[6]


The San Luis Obispo Police and Fire Association Political Action Committee, which opposed Measures A and B, raised $59,170 through August 15.[5]

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

MEASURE B: "Shall San Luis Obispo Charter Section 1107 (“Impartial and Binding Arbitration for San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association and San Luis Obispo Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 3523, Employee Disputes”) be repealed in its entirety, leaving resolution of disputes over wages, hours, or working conditions, which remain unresolved after good faith negotiations between the City and the two covered organizations, subject to the same State law procedures for impasse resolution that govern other public employee organizations?"[7]

Path to the ballot

The measure was referred to the ballot by the City Council of San Luis Obispo in a 4-1 vote cast on May 17. Councilman John Ashbaugh is the one city council member who voted against putting the measure on the August 30 ballot.[1]


A lawsuit was filed on May 3 by the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association in a bid to keep the measure from going to a vote.[8]

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall ruled that sufficient grounds do not exist to keep the ballot measure off the ballot.[1]

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