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fresno beeA California administrative law judge has ruled against SEIU. The union had filed a complaint against Fresno County alleging bad-faith negotiating and unfair labor practice. Amidst tough economic times, the county imposed salary cuts on union members; SEIU demanded back pay with interest, which could have added up to over $80 million.

Fresno County officials dodged a potential $100 million bullet when a state Public Employment Relations Board judge dismissed charges of bad-faith negotiating and unfair labor practice stemming from a 2011 dispute with the county’s largest union.

County supervisors imposed unilateral 9% pay cuts in 2011, and the Service Employees International Union appealed to the state seeking more than three years back pay at 7% interest. That would’ve amounted to a county cost in the range of $80 million to $100 million, Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said.

Instead, Administrative Law Judge Shawn P. Cloughsey dismissed the nearly dozen counts filed by the union. SEIU’s membership can appeal his decision, issued Thursday, to a full Public Employment Relations Board panel.

In 2011, major goals for county officials were cutting salaries, changing retirement programs for certain workers and dealing with attendance and scheduling policies in certain departments. Cloughesy says “the parties were engaged in contentious hard-bargaining.” Even though the negotiations were difficult, he says, they did not have “hallmarks of bad faith.”