District’s Ability to Regulate “Politcal Speech” is Limited

Desert Community College District (PERB Case No. 1921-E) (8/10/07)

PERB held that a community college district violated the Educational
Employment Relations Act (EERA) when it attempted to prohibit one of its unions from discussing a Board of Trustees election at a union meeting held on campus.

The key issue was whether the district’s conduct was justified by the Education Code, specifically sections 7054 and 7055. Section 7054 prohibits the use of district “funds, services, supplies, or equipment” to support or oppose ballot measures and/or candidates. PERB found this language inapplicable since the union was using the district’s “facilities.” PERB also found section 7055 – which allows a college to adopt rules and regulations governing “(p)olitical activities on the premises of the local agency” – to be inapplicable as the district had failed to adopt any such rules or regulations.

Arguably, PERB took a narrow view of the section 7054 prohibition on using “services, supplies or equipment” to support candidates. However, key here is the fact that the union’s meeting was in a non-instructional setting. Also, there were no facts suggesting that the union’s use of the district’s facilities would be interpreted as an endorsement of the union’s speech. Given these facts, PERB would have likely reached the same conclusion even if the district had adopted rules under section 7055.

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