Gerry J. Elman, Deputy Atty. Gen., Harrisburg, for appellants.
Thomas A. Beckley, Harrisburg, for appellees.
Jerome H. Gerber and James L. Cowden, Harrisburg, for Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, amicus curiae.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
These appeals present the question whether jurisdiction in equity exists in suits by public employes against their employers and collective bargaining representatives to enjoin payroll deductions for union dues, and to recover the amount of dues already deducted. The Commonwealth Court held that it has equitable jurisdiction of such suits. For the reasons which follow, we have concluded that the instant action was initiated for the purpose of enjoining an arguably unfair labor practice and that therefore jurisdiction of the grievance is in the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board [hereinafter "the PLRB" or "the Board"]. Accordingly, we shall reverse the decree of the Commonwealth Court.
Rosemary Hollinger and E. Elizabeth Miller, the plaintiffs-appellants in No. 19, are first level supervisors*fn1 in the Department of Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [hereinafter "the Department"]. Their complaint alleges the following facts: On January 5, 1973, the PLRB certified the Joint Bargaining Committee of the Pennsylvania Employment Security Employes' Association and the Pennsylvania Social Services Union, both affiliated with the Service Employes International
Union, AFL-CIO [hereinafter collectively referred to as "the union"], as the exclusive representative, for the purposes of meeting and discussing*fn2 wages, hours and conditions of employment, of a bargaining unit of which appellants are members. On January 22, 1973, the union and the Department entered into a "memorandum of understanding," which contained a "maintenance of membership" or "union security" provision*fn3 and provided for dues deductions from the pay checks of those union members who authorize such deductions.*fn4 The memorandum of understanding expired on June 30, 1973. On July 5, 1973, Hollinger and Miller, both of whom had previously joined the union and authorized the deduction of union dues from their pay checks, resigned from the union, and the Department ceased the dues check-off as to them.
On January 30, 1974, the union and the Department entered into a new memorandum of understanding, which, like its predecessor, provided for maintenance of membership and union dues deductions. In March of 1974, the plaintiffs were advised by the Department that their resignations from the union, not having occurred during the fifteen day period immediately prior to the June 30, 1973 expiration of the first memorandum of understanding, were ineffective; plaintiffs were told that in consequence dues would be collected from their wages retroactively to the date deductions had been terminated, and thereafter. It is alleged that this in fact occurred.
The facts asserted in the appeal at No. 20 are much the same. The plaintiffs-appellants there are thirteen "rank and file" employes of the Department of Public Welfare. Their complaint alleges the following facts: On January 4, 1972, the union was certified as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit of which the plaintiffs are members, for purposes of collective bargaining with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. On June 1, 1972, the Department and the union entered into a collective bargaining agreement which included a "union security" or "maintenance of membership" clause*fn5 and a provision for dues deductions from the pay checks of union members.*fn6 This agreement expired on June 30, 1973. Between July 1, 1973, and July 26, 1973, the plaintiffs resigned from the union and the deduction of dues from their wages was stopped. On or about July 26, 1973, the union and the Department ...