Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in case of School District of Bristol Township v. Bristol Township Education Association; James McNichol, Individually and as President of Bristol Township Education Association; Peter C. Cottone, Individually and as Vice President of Bristol Township Education Association; Dixie Lee Rhodes, Individually and as Secretary of the Bristol Township Education Association; Joseph Milnes, Individually and as Treasurer of the Bristol Township Education Association; Edward Morgan, William Hildenbrand, and Peter Cottone, Negotiators of Bristol Township Education Association and all other unnamed teachers and personnel employed by Plaintiff who are members of Bristol Township Education Association, No. 73-9181-04-5.
John F. X. Fenerty, with him Charleston & Fenerty, P.C., for appellants.
George T. Kelton, with him Edwin N. Popkin and Begley, Carlin, Mandio, Kelton and Popkin, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Mencer. Judge Kramer joins in this dissent. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Kramer.
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The Bristol Township Education Association (appellant) has appealed from the issuance of an injunction pursuant to Section 1003 of the Public Employe Relations Act, Act of July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, 43 P.S. § 1101.1003 (PERA) enjoining the appellant from any further strike or work stoppage against the School District of Bristol Township (appellee).
Without reciting the entire procedural history of this case, we will merely note that its major procedural complexities have been previously argued before this Court and that orders have already been issued denying a motion to quash and declaring that this appeal did in itself not operate as a supersedeas without an approved security.
The case is before us now on its merits, and our scope of review is limited to determining whether or not apparently reasonable grounds existed for the equitable relief ordered by the lower court and, unless it is plain that no such grounds existed or that the rules of law relied on were palpably wrong or clearly inapplicable, we must affirm. Armstrong School District v. Armstrong Education Association, 5 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 378, 291 A.2d 120 (1972) (Armstrong I).
We find that the injunction was properly issued.
The language of Section 1003 of the PERA, 43 P.S. § 1101.1003, provides: "If a strike by public employes
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occurs after the collective bargaining processes set forth in sections 801 and 802 of Article VIII of this act have been completely utilized and exhausted, it shall not be prohibited unless or until such a strike creates a clear and present danger or threat to the health, safety or welfare of the public. In such cases the public employer shall initiate, in the court of common pleas of the jurisdiction where such strike occurs, an action for equitable relief including but not limited to appropriate injunctions and shall be entitled to such relief if the court finds that the strike creates a clear and present danger or threat to the health, safety or welfare of the public." (Emphasis added.)
The body of law which has been developed in this area requires adherence to several basic principles: (1) teachers shall not be prohibited from striking if an impasse occurs after the statutory negotiation and mediation procedures have been completed; (2) equitable relief may be employed to halt a lawful strike only if the strike creates a clear and present danger or threat to the health, safety or welfare of the public; (3) this clear and present danger test does not contemplate a consideration of those effects which are normally incident to a strike unless such matters accumulate to such an extent, be continued so long or be aggravated by some unexpected development so that the public health, safety and welfare would in fact then be endangered. Armstrong I, supra ; and (4) the possibility of dangerous effects of the strike may be considered in assessing its impact. Bellefonte Area School Board v. The Bellefonte Education Association, 9 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 210, 304 A.2d 922 (1973).
Although the above criteria should be strictly applied, we may not apply such criteria directly to the testimony as a whole, but only to the findings of the Chancellor, if such findings are supported by sufficient evidence. Even if, in our view, a preponderance of testimony
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should exist against a finding or a reasonable inference by the Chancellor, we must not overturn his findings or inferences if there is any testimony which, if believed, will warrant them. Ross v. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, 8 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 204, 301 A.2d 405 (1973).
The Chancellor found that the following facts justified the issuance of the injunction: (1) many of the students, who comprise approximately 20% of the Township population, are being denied complete educational programs; (2) working mothers, who may have school-age children, are injuriously affected by the strike; (3) 26 student days have been lost because of the strike and only 23 possible make-up instructional student days remain before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 1974; (4) "[a] partial loss of state reimbursement -- a substantial sum . . . is suffered by a district for failure to comply with state requirements";*fn1 (5) cafeteria workers and bus drivers have lost wages; (6) special education and training programs for most of the mentally retarded, brain injured and socially and emotionally disturbed students are not being conducted; (7) there is a likelihood that the nonattendance of college-bound high school seniors will work to their disadvantage in College admission; (8) county services are unavailable for students with hearing, vision or speech disabilities; and (9) extra-curricular activities are not in operation.
In addition, the Chancellor found further justification for his injunction in that the following community programs have been inoperative because of the strike; (10) ...