• San Luis Obispo County Employees' Association
  • 1035 Walnut Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Prevailing Wage Ordinance


In the years leading up to the adoption of the prevailing wage ordinance, San Luis Obispo County employees had become increasingly frustrated at the low pay and poor working conditions they were being subjected to on a day to day basis. This growing frustration amongst county employees, coupled with the seemingly uncaring and indifferent attitude of the Board of Supervisors, served to motivate county employees to make their case directly to a sympathetic electorate.

Turning their frustration into action, these county employees, working through the San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Association, effectively made their case to county voters and won voter approval of a local ballot measure during the November 1972 election cycle. The resulting ordinance was subsequently codified as section 2.48.180 of the San Luis Obispo County Code.

November 7, 1972 Ballot Measure “B”:

This was the original ballot measure passed by voters, which established a prevailing wage ordinance in San Luis Obispo County. This measure passed even though it received substantial opposition from the Board of Supervisors at the time.

NOTE: There are two ways a local ballot initiative is qualified to appear on a ballot for voter consideration. The first way is by a 3/5th vote of the Board of Supervisors. The second is by sufficient number of voter signatures submitted on a petition. Significantly, this 1972 local measure was qualified by SLOCEA gathering a sufficient number of voter signatures on a petition. Local ballot initiatives passed by voter petition can only be amended or repealed by a vote of the local electorate.

Vote Record

23,945 “Yes”

22,889 “No”

November 22, 1978 - Ballot Measure “G”:

In 1978, the Board of Supervisors attempted to repeal the prevailing wage ordinance by placing this repeal measure on the November 22, 1978 general election ballot. Voters overwhelmingly rejected this repeal effort:

Vote Record

19,323 “Yes” (In favor of repeal of the prevailing wage ordinance)

25,614 "No" (Against repeal of the pervading wage ordinance)

November 6, 1984 general ballot as “Measure “D”:

Measure D was placed on the 1984 general election ballot by agreement of the County and SLOCEA, to amend the prevailing wage ordinance and bring it into compliance with California statutory and constitutional law. This was necessary following a court ruling on October 5, 1981, which stopped short of completely invalidating the ordinance ( REF: Case No 49982). The court stated in its ruling that “if this court were to find that Section 2.48.180 created a scheme of binding arbitration, then the ordinance would be invalid” [as unconstitutional].

Based upon these findings by the court the ordinance could not be enforced through the binding arbitration provision and the 1984 amendment was therefore necessary to bring the ordinance into compliance with California statute / Constitution. This was accomplished by changing the enforcement mechanism of the ordinance from binding arbitration to advisory arbitration.

Vote Record:

39,711 “Yes”

25,235 “No”.


From 1973 to 2010, the county agreed with SLOCEA that it would utilize a wage formula based upon the prevailing wage ordinance. This tradition continued even after the 1984 amendment to the prevailing wage ordinance. However, a major 2003 ruling by the California Supreme Court, likely enticed the County of San Luis Obispo to move away from this traditional approach to setting local wages. In the 2003 ruling, the California Supreme Court found that binding arbitration for settling labor disputes violated the home rule provisions of Article XI, Section 1(b) and Article XI, Section 11(a). Article XI, Section 1(b) of the California Constitution, which gives the Board of Supervisors plenary authority to provide for the compensation of county employees. Article XI, Section 11(a) prohibits the delegation of this authority to an unelected arbitrator to make decisions regarding employee compensation ( County of Riverside v. Superior Court (2003) 30 Cal.4th 278).

Sadly, in October 2010, acting on the recommendation of the then newly appointed HR Director, Tami Douglas-Schatz and likely emboldened by the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling; the Board of Supervisors adopted its so called “three point labor plan.” With the adoption this three-point labor plan the prevailing wage formula used by SLOCEA and the county for more than 35 years, essentially ceased to exist in the eyes of the Board of Supervisors.

Since that time, SLOCEA has been working actively to try and persuade the county to return to the traditional application of the prevailing wage formula, but the county has so far been intransigent in its position.


In 2012, the California legislator enacted AB 646 (now codified as Government Code Section 3505.4), which established advisory Factfinding as the primary mechanism for settling labor impasse disputes in California. The provisions of this government code section collaterally augment and expand the advisory arbitration provision of the SLO county prevailing wage ordinance.


Over the years, changes in the California Constitution, statutes, and subsequent Supreme Court rulings, have essentially stripped public employees of the ability to settle disputes through binding arbitration or related court actions ( exception - charter counties with binding arbitration charter provisions).

Wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment must therefore be negotiated through the collective bargaining process and resulting impasses may only be submitted to advisory arbitration / Factfinding.

We must rely on the Board of Supervisors (through their management staff) to live up to their legal obligation to negotiate in good faith and when they don’t, we have the right to file unfair labor practice charges, and / or engage in protected concerted labor actions to convey our displeasure with their bad faith.

With all of this said, SLOCEA is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to improve our abilities at the negotiating table. Such improvements may potentially be accomplished through the collective efforts of organized labor in seeking changes to the State Constitution and/or statutory law. Or, by using the local ballot process to enact ordinances that provide a more even collective bargaining "playing field" for public employees. The fight for fair treatment in the workplace has been ongoing for more than two centuries in the United States. Regardless of how frustrating the process may be, we must never give up on the fight for fair pay, benefits, and working conditions, on behalf of our very deserving members!