No. 484 January Term, 1976, Appeal from the Order of February 5, 1976 of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, October Term, 1975, No. 1833, affirming the Decree of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division-Equity of Philadelphia, at No. 2983 January Term, 1975.
Stephen C. Miller, Irene Solet, Steven S. Goldberg, Philadelphia, for appellants.
Vincent J. Salandria, Philadelphia, for appellee, Bd. of Ed. of the School Dist. of Philadelphia.
Leonard M. Sagot, Philadelphia, for appellee, Phila. Federation of Teachers.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ. Mr. Justice Packel did not participate in the decision of this case. Mr. Justice Manderino filed a dissenting opinion.
This case presents the issue whether an allegation that a collective bargaining agreement contains illegal provisions is to be resolved in the first instance by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.*fn1
Appellants, taxpayers and students of the School District of Philadelphia, filed a complaint in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia to enjoin appellees, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Board of Education of the school district, from complying with several provisions of the teacher-school district collective bargaining agreement. Appellants, not parties to the agreement, alleged that the challenged provisions conflicted with provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, Local Agency Law, and Public School Code and injured them by illegally transferring control over many educational policy decisions from the School Board to the Federation.
Contending that appellants should have first sought relief before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, appellees filed preliminary objections challenging the jurisdiction of the trial court. The court sustained the preliminary objections and dismissed the complaint. The Superior Court affirmed, we granted allowance of appeal,*fn2 and now reverse.
Appellees contend that appellants have charged them with "[r]efusing to bargain collectively in good faith" as proscribed by unfair labor practice sections 1201(a)(5) and 1201(b)(3) of Act 195.*fn3 Relying upon section 1301 of Act
,*fn4 which gives the Board exclusive authority to enforce unfair labor practices under Act 195, appellees conclude appellants should have first sought relief before the Board.
Like each of their companion subsections, sections 1201(a)(5) and 1201(b)(3) authorize the Board to draw upon its experience in labor relations and impose sanctions that ensure even-handed, fair, and orderly collective bargaining. In discharging its responsibility, the Board has confronted a wide range of "refusals to bargain in good faith." It has held that a public employer refuses to bargain where it refuses to furnish an employee representative records and information reasonably necessary to allow intelligent collective bargaining. Community Mental Health Center of Beaver Co., 8 PPER 114. Public employers unilaterally instituting any one of a wide range of changes in working conditions refuse to bargain. E.g., Borough of Berwick, 3 PPER 183 (unilateral discontinuance of public employees' Christmas bonus); Highland Sewer & Water Auth., 4 PPER 116 (unilateral ...