gaveldecision.jpgThe California Supreme Court today upheld the power of cities to pass laws protecting the jobs of existing workers when a new owner takes over a store or business.

The court, in a 6-1 decision issued in San Francisco, upheld a 2005 Los Angeles law that gives employees of large grocery stores certain job rights and preferences when there is a change of ownership.

But the decision also affects similar laws passed by other cities, including four Bay Area cities.

Those laws include a Berkeley measure covering marina business workers; an Emeryville law for hotel workers; an Oakland ordinance covering hospitality workers; and a San Jose law on airport business workers, the court said.

The Los Angeles law applies to grocery stores that are 15,000 square feet or larger. It requires a new owner to hire workers from a list of existing workers for a 90-day transition period.

The law doesn’t require retaining the workers after 90 days, but it does require the employer to consider doing so.

If the workforce was unionized, the law also allows the union to try to reach a new contract agreement during the 90-day transition.

The four Bay Area laws are similar, the court said.

The panel rejected the California Grocers Association’s arguments that the law conflicted with a state law on food worker health and safety and with a federal law regulating collective bargaining.

The Los Angeles ordinance and the state law “do not overlap,” Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote for the court majority.

“The former regulates employment, not food safety, while the latter regulates food safety, not employment,” Werdegar wrote.

The court also said the federal labor relations law “does not disturb state and local authority, to address, as these entities see fit, matters of hiring and firing.”

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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