Abrahams & Loewenstein, William F. Coyle, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Anthony J. Molloy, Jr., Harrisburg, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
Appellant, the Philadelphia Fire Officers Association, filed with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board [herein "Labor Board"] a petition in which it sought to have the Labor Board conduct an election to determine a collective bargaining representative in a unit of employees of the Fire Department of the City of
Philadelphia.*fn1 The petition admitted that the employees comprising the proposed unit were arguably represented by another labor organization, City Firefighters Association of Philadelphia, Local 22. The Fire Officers Association represented that it had signature authorization cards from some 412 of the 495 employees it sought to represent.
The Labor Board dismissed the representation petition on the ground that it lacked statutory jurisdiction to conduct an election among policemen or firemen whose collective bargaining with their public employers is governed by the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, Act No. 111, 43 P.S. §§ 217.1-217.10 (Supp.1976-77), since that statute makes no express provision for the conduct of representation elections by the Labor Board. The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County affirmed the Board's dismissal,*fn2 and the Commonwealth Court in its turn likewise affirmed.*fn3 We granted allowance of appeal to consider the important issue of labor law which was presented. We now reverse and remand to the Board for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
The problem presented is one of statutory interpretation. The legislative background is necessary to understanding the problem and to its solution:
The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act ("PLRA"), June 1, 1937, P.L. 1168, No. 294, 43 P.S. §§ 211.1-211.13,
which created the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board and charged it with the specialized tasks of determining bargaining representatives and conducting hearings on unfair labor practice complaints, excluded from its definition of employers covered by the Act "the United States or the Commonwealth, or any political subdivision thereof, or any municipal authority . . . ." 43 P.S. § 211.3(c). While by virtue of the PLRA and its federal counterpart, the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (1973) collective bargaining became the order of the day in the private labor sector, such bargaining in the public sector was in 1937 and for almost thirty years thereafter considered against public policy. The Act of June 30, 1947, P.L. 1183, formerly 43 P.S. §§ 215.1-215.5 (now repealed), made strikes by public employees unlawful, provided that any public employee who struck terminated his employment, and established a grievance procedure. The statute, however, did not ...