Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation

On September 30, 2002, Governor Davis signed two companion bills, SB 1156 and AB 2596, that amended the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, effective January 1, 2003, to provide for binding mediation in selected circumstances where the parties have been unable to reach a collective bargaining agreement. The law was amended by SB 75, effective January 1, 2004, to delete a sunset provision, add nonexclusive standards to be followed by the mediator, and expand the grounds for review of the mediator’s report. The law was amended again by SB 126, effective January 1, 2012. Those amendments 1) Reduced from 180 to 90 days the period that must elapse after an initial request to bargain before a request for mediation may be requested, where the labor organization was certified after January 1, 2003, and 2) Expanded the circumstances when a union or employer may invoke the mediation process to include those denoted as “(C)” and “(D)” below.

As amended, the mandatory mediation and conciliation provisions provide as follows:

The mediation provisions apply only if the employer has employed 25 or more agricultural employees during any calendar week in the year preceding the filing of the request for mediation. If the certification of the union occurred after January 1, 2003, the mediation process may be triggered where:

(A) 90 days have elapsed from the initial demand to bargain following certification.

(B) If the certification occurred prior to January 1, 2003, 90 days after a renewed demand to bargain, and where the following conditions are met:

  1. The parties have failed to reach agreement for at least one year after the union made its initial demand to bargain;
  2. The employer has committed an unfair labor practice; and
  3. The parties have not previously had a binding contract between them.

(C) 60 days after the Board certifies a labor organization after setting aside an election due to employer interference where the misconduct renders slight the chances of a new election reflecting the free and fair choice of employees.

(D) 60 days after a decertification petition has been dismissed due to a finding that the employer has unlawfully initiated, supported, sponsored, or assisted in the filing of a decertification petition.

Once a mediator is selected in accordance with the process set forth in the legislation and implementing regulations, the mediation will continue for 30 days, with an option for an extension of 30 days if mutually agreed by the parties. If this process does not result in resolution of all issues to the mutual satisfaction of the parties, the mediator will certify that the process has been exhausted. Thereafter, the mediator will have 21 days to file a report that establishes the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. The law further provides for Board review of the mediator’s report and appellate court review of the Board’s decisions.

The Board’s regulations are codified at Title 8, California Code of Regulations, section 20100, et seq. The regulations specific to the mandatory mediation process are sections 20400 through 20408, and 20450.

Below are links to a summary of the law and regulations in a question-and-answer format and the updated implementing regulations.

Summary of the Law and Regulations

Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation Regulations