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Pension Reform May Be Kept Off Ballot

Pension Reform May Be Kept Off Ballot
San Diego’s controversial pension reform initiative may not make it on the June ballot. The California Public Employment Relations Board will ask for a preliminary injunction against the measure while it reviews an unfair practices claim.

The California Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, will ask a local judge to weigh in on the pension reform initiative. The measure would replace pensions with 401(k)s for most new city hires and freeze the base pay of current employees for five years. It's being championed by several city leaders, including Councilman Carl DeMaio and Mayor Jerry Sanders.

PERB will request a preliminary injunction against the ballot measure until it completes a review of an unfair practices claim filed by San Diego’s Municipal Employees Association.

The city’s white-collar union said Sanders should not have actively supported the measure without negotiating with city unions. The union’s general manager Michael Zucchet said Sanders’ claim that he was acting as a private citizen doesn’t hold up.


“He has called it his legacy as mayor, this initiative. He has negotiated with all the parties to create this one ballot initiative. He’s raised money to hire the lawyers to write this initiative,” Zucchet said.

Zucchet maintains Sanders’ role as the city’s chief labor negotiator means he was acting on behalf of the city, not as a private citizen.

He said the PERB decision is significant, but it’s likely the first of many to come in the case.

In a statement, Sanders calls the PERB decision unfortunate. He said the measure rightly qualified for the ballot and the public should get a chance to vote on it.

In a separate statement, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the law only requires labor negotiations take place if the City Council places an item on the ballot. The pension reform measure is considered a citizen’s initiative that qualified for the ballot through voter signatures.


PERB will request the injunction some time this week. It will then begin its own review process regarding the unfair practices claim. Its decision can be reviewed by the state appellate court.

The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.