No. 244 January Term, 1978, No. 245 January Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at No. 1306 C.D. 1976 entered August 11, 1977, reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, entered June 30, 1976 at No. 2978 Civil 1975
Gerald E. Ruth, York, Anthony D. Newman, Harrisburg, for appellant at No. 244.
James L. Crawford, James F. Wildeman, Raymond W. Cromer, Harrisburg, for appellant at No. 245.
Richard C. Snelbaker, Mechanicsburg, for Cumberland Valley School Dist., appellees at No. 244.
James L. Crawford, James F. Wildeman, Harrisburg, for Pa. Labor Relations Bd. at No. 244.
Richard C. Snelbaker, Mechanicsburg, for Cumberland Valley School Dist. at No. 245.
Gerald E. Ruth, York, Anthony D. Newman, Harrisburg, for Cumberland Valley Ed. Ass'n at No. 245.
Michael I. Levin, Harrisburg, for amicus curiae Pa. School Bd.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Larsen and Pomeroy, JJ., filed separate concurring opinions.
The Cumberland Valley Education Association ("the Association") is the exclusive bargaining agent for the teachers in the Cumberland Valley School District ("the District"). On July 7, 1975, the Association charged the District with unfair labor practices under Sections 1201(a)(1), (3), and (5) of Pennsylvania's Public Employee Relations Act, popularly known as Act 195.
The Association and the District entered into a collective bargaining agreement which was effective from July 1, 1973 to June 30, 1975. Under this agreement, the District agreed to pay premiums for medical and hospitalization insurance for employees and their dependents, premiums for life insurance for employees, and tuition expenses for employees. The agreement expired on June 30, 1975, while negotiations for a new agreement were in progress. On July 2, 1975, the District terminated payments for the health and life insurance plans. At the same time, the District notified teachers it would no longer pay educational expenses. During this period the employees were not on strike.
Under Sections 1201(a)(1), (3), (5), respectively, public employers are prohibited: from "interfering, restraining and coercing employes" in the exercise of their collective bargaining rights under the act; from discriminating with respect to "hire or tenure of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any employe organization," and from "refusing to bargain in good faith with an employe representative which is the exclusive representative of employes."
The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ("the Board") concluded that the District refused to bargain in good faith and thereby interfered with the employees' collective bargaining right; however, the Board dismissed the discrimination charge under § 1201(a)(3). 6 PPER 211 (1975). The Board also found in support of the District's countercharge that the Association committed a technical violation of the Act when it mailed an offer to continue the terms of the present contract to the School Board President instead of to the chief negotiator as agreed upon in the ground rules. In its final ruling, the Board ordered the School District to reimburse or make whole the payment necessary to keep the employees' insurance coverage and limited cost reimbursement plan current.
The District appealed the Board's order to the Court of Common Pleas. The court, however, dismissed the District's appeal and affirmed the decision of the Board. 26 Cumb.
(1976). The District then appealed this decision to the Commonwealth Court which reversed the lower court. The Commonwealth Court reasoned that because the contract with the School District expired, this event rather than the unilateral termination by the Board caused the benefits to cease. 31 Pa. Commw. 407, 412, 376 A.2d 674 (1977). The Commonwealth Court did not logically reach the remedy issue as it did not find the District guilty of any unfair labor practice. These appeals by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board and the Association followed.
We disagree and therefore reverse the decision of the Commonwealth Court.
The Board's decision finds substantial support in the record and also promotes the labor policy embodied in Act 195 -- providing a peaceful and orderly means of resolving disputes through the collective bargaining process. 43 P.S. § 1101.101 (Supp.1978-79).
Findings of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 43 P.S. § 1101.1502 (Supp.1978-79). (July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, No. 195, art. XV, § 1501, as amended 1971, June 3, P.L. 146, No. 6, § 1 (§ 509(a)(180), (181)). See e. g., St. Joseph's Hospital v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 473 Pa. 101, 373 A.2d 1069 (1977); Borough of Wilkinsburg v. Sanitation Dept. of Borough of Wilkinsburg, 463 Pa. 521, 345 A.2d 641 (1975); Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Sand's Restaurant, 429 Pa. 479, 240 A.2d 801 (1968); Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Butz, 411 Pa. 360, 192 A.2d 707 (1963); Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Kaufmann Department Stores, Inc., 345 Pa. 398, 29 A.2d 90 (1940). This Court has said that substantial evidence means more than a "mere scintilla." Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Sand's Restaurant, supra; Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Kaufmann Department Stores, supra. The substantial evidence test articulated fully in Kaufmann, 345 Pa. at 400, 29 A.2d at 92, means
". . . that it is the function of the board not only to appraise conflicting evidence, to determine the credibility
of witnesses, and to resolve primary issues of fact, but also to draw inferences from the established facts and circumstances. . . ." (Citations omitted)
The Board is delegated the exclusive function to decide cases arising under Act 195 in the first instance, 43 P.S. § 1101.501 (Supp.78-79), and correspondingly, on appeal our standard of review is limited. We have said:
". . . [this Court] will not lightly substitute its judgment for that of a body selected for its expertise whose experience and expertise make it better qualified than a court of law to weigh facts within its field." Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Butz, 411 Pa. at 377, 192 A.2d at 716.
This limited standard of review is also consistent with federal court decisions which have interpreted a similar provision of the National Labor Relations Act. Compare 29 U.S.C. § 160(e) and 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1) and (3) with 43 P.S. § 1101.1502. See e. g., Universal Camera Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board, 340 U.S. 474, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456 (1951); Consolidated Edison Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. ...