Union sues against term it negotiated

Thanks to reader J.H. for flagging Alcala v. Santa Fe Rubber Products, from the California courts last fall: “A very strange case — Union demands 20 minute lunch breaks (instead of the required 30), which are put into a union contract. Then, in balked renegotiations years later, they threaten to sue for labor violation claiming 20 violates statute, and ultimately get evidence of their demands kept out. Court of Appeals agrees with most of that. And the unions protect exactly who?”


  • John and Paul are angry at each other. They agree to duel at 10 paces. Paul kills John. John’s estate sues Paul for assault. The state charges Paul with murder. Who prevails?

  • The attorneys

    • well played.

  • Yeah, but in this ‘duel’ between the employees and employer, each was getting something of value.
    Old system: Employees worked 7 2/3 hours, lunched 20 minutes, and received a wage of 8 hours.
    In new situation employees work 8 hours, lunch 30 minutes, and still only receive wage of 8 hours, but are ‘owned’ by the employer for 8.5 hours from the start of work to end of work, minus lunch time.

    So the union managed to effect:
    1) longer work day, 8.5 hours vs 8 hours
    2) same pay
    3) unpaid lunch versus paid lunch period, though now 10 minutes longer

    • Essentially, the old agreement was having the company pay for 20 minutes of non-work so that it could have employees take 10 minutes less off during the shift. And the employees were agreeing to give up the 10 minutes for an additional 20 minutes of pay and 30 minutes off of the shift.

      The question is not whether they all got what they bargained for. The question is whether they should be allowed to bargain for it in the first place. The law is pretty clear: the agreement was not allowed.

      Should the company get dinged for 100% of this? of course not.

      Should the law be what it is? That, of course, is a different question.

      As for the metaphor, duelists get a lot out of the duel, even if they die. If that were not the case, why would they risk the duel? One could make the case that duelers get more out of their bargain than the employee and company got out of theirs, given that one involved life and death and the other involved having time to eat a liverwurst sandwich. That does not mean, however, that we should re-legalize dueling.

  • But you were never legally required to accept the duel. And the challenged got the choice of weapons…