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MATTER LEWISBURG AREA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION AND LEWISBURG AREA BOARD SCHOOL DIRECTORS. LEWISBURG AREA BOARD SCHOOL DIRECTORS (04/04/77)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: April 4, 1977.

IN THE MATTER OF: LEWISBURG AREA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION AND LEWISBURG AREA BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS. LEWISBURG AREA BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS, APPELLANT

Appeal from Award of arbitrator in case of Grievance of Richard Runyan, Case Number 14-30-0022-76-Q.

COUNSEL

Louise O. Knight, with her Clement and Knight, for appellant.

William A. Hebe, with him Spencer, Gleason & Hebe, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 489]

The Lewisburg Area Board of School Directors (Board) has appealed an arbitrator's award which reassigned Richard Runyan, a school teacher and member of the Lewisburg Area Education Association (Association), to a pay class designated "Masters" instead of leaving him in a "Bachelors" class into which the Board had placed him. We hold that the award violated the essence of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Board and the Association and accordingly vacate it.

Runyan had taught for eight years with an earned Bachelor's Degree, and had been paid according to the Bachelor's Degree-holders' scale. In November 1974 he received a "Master's Degree Equivalency Certificate" from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and, on the next date for salary changes, received a $300.00 salary increase. He received no written notice of the pay increase nor any statement indicating a change in salary class. However, the $10,000.00 salary he received after the increase corresponded exactly to the yearly salary of members of the "Masters" class under the then-existing agreement.

In October, 1975, shortly after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (Agreement)*fn1 was signed, the Board's Payroll Department officially notified Runyan

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 490]

    as follows: "Please be advised that your salary for 1975-1976 is $11,000.00. This places you on Class I Step 9 M. EQ." Class I was the class for holders of Bachelor's Degrees and at Step 9 it indicated a salary of $10,700.00. The $300.00 increment brought Runyan's pay to $11,000.00 which, again, was the same salary paid to holders of Master's Degrees, at Class II, Step 9.

The 1975 Agreement contained the following "Note" in the section defining the salary classes:

Teachers, who, at the time of execution of this Agreement are being paid on the same basis as those having an earned Master's Degree, shall be deemed to have an earned Master's Degree for purposes of application of this Article XXV.

The arbitrator reasoned that since Runyan was receiving the same yearly salary as a Master's Degree holder at the time the Agreement was executed, he was "being paid on the same basis" as one having an earned Master's Degree and had to be treated as such for salary classification purposes. The Board argues that the correspondence in salary is pure coincidence, flowing from the fact that Runyan's salary was increased by $300.00 to comply with Section 1142(g) of the Public School Code (Code)*fn2 which requires holders of a Master's Degree or its equivalent to be

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 491]

    paid at least $300.00 more than a college certificate holder who does not have a Master's Degree, while at the same time the Agreement specified a salary differential of $300.00 between the Bachelors pay class and the Masters pay class. Hence, the Board argues, Runyan was not being paid "on the same basis" as a Master's Degree holder, simply because he was receiving the same salary. The Board contends that the "Note" was intended as a "grandfather clause" or "red circling," whose purpose was to cloak certain teachers, who had nearly completed the program for an earned Master's Degree and who were receiving benefits under the previous contract, with the benefits accruing to Masters under the new agreement.

The controversy herein, while it does not involve Runyan's present salary, does have a crucial effect upon his future pay scale. The Board argues that if the arbitrator's reassignment of Runyan to Class II Masters is allowed to stand, the way will be clear for him and other similarly situated teachers to advance to Classes III, IV and V without acquiring an earned Master's Degree, but merely by accumulating the graduate credits required by those classes.

The Board is arguing essentially that the arbitrator has rendered the obtaining of a Master's Equivalency indistinguishable from the obtaining of a Master's Degree (an argument which is supported by the language of the arbitrator's opinion) and that in so doing, he has undermined the purpose and philosophy of the salary class designations which, it alleges, is to compensate teachers according to their degree status and additional earned credits.*fn3

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 492]

We have adopted as the scope of our review of an award of an arbitrator commissioned pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement the standard first enunciated by the United States Supreme Court when it held that "an arbitrator is confined to interpretation and application of the collective bargaining agreement; he does not sit to dispense his own brand of industrial justice. He may of course look for guidance from many sources, yet his award is legitimate only so long as it draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement." United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel and Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 597 (1960). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals developed the concept further, writing that "a labor arbitrator's award does 'draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement' if the interpretation can in any rational way be derived from the agreement, viewed in the light of its language, its context, and any other indicia of the parties' intention; only where there is a manifest disregard of the agreement, totally unsupported by principles of contract construction and the law of the shop, may a reviewing court disturb the award." Ludwig Honold Mfg. Co. v. Fletcher, 405 F.2d 1123, 1128 (3rd Cir. 1969). This Court has consistently followed that standard.*fn4

We have studied the entire Agreement and are compelled by its language and the rules of contract construction to conclude, contrary to the arbitrator, that the obtaining of a Master's Equivalency was never intended by the parties to be sufficient for entry into the Masters' salary classes. If the arbitrator is correct, a teacher would be able to attain the salary scale next to the Doctorate's without having been awarded a Master's Degree from an academic institution,

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 493]

    a result which we cannot attribute to the parties.

The Agreement repeatedly and specifically states that the Masters' classes are to be composed of "teachers with an earned Master's Degree." Absent a concrete showing*fn5 by the Association that the term was intended to encompass also the Master's Equivalency, we find no basis for the arbitrator's expansion of the term beyond its ordinary meaning, i.e., a degree conferred by an accredited academic institution. In holding that the term "Master's Degree" does not include the Master's Equivalency, we are supported by Section 1141(5) of the Code, which states that, for purposes of the subdivision on teacher's compensation:

'Master's Degree' shall mean a degree secured at a college or university approved by the Department of Public Instruction.

The State Board of Education shall establish equivalents for both college certificates and master's degrees. In determining the equivalents,

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 494]

    in the case of teachers of applied arts and vocational subjects, the State Board of Education shall give due consideration to practical experience in the field taught.

This clearly indicates that our legislature regarded the two classes as distinct, and that when, in the next section, it mandated that both equivalency holders and degree holders receive the same $300.00 salary increment, it did not intend thereby to equate the two.

Finally, we adopt the Board's view of the significance of the above cited "Note." We are unable to conclude that a teacher is being paid "on the same basis" as a Master merely by reason of his being paid the same amount.

For these reasons, the conclusion reached by the arbitrator is without foundation in the Collective Bargaining Agreement and therefore fails to draw its essence from the Agreement.

Accordingly, we

Order

And Now, this 4th day of April, 1977, the award of the arbitrator is hereby vacated.

Disposition

Award vacated.


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