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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. STAIRWAYS (02/05/81)

decided: February 5, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, APPELLANT
v.
STAIRWAYS, INC., APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County in case of Stairways, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, No. 1562-A of 1979.

COUNSEL

James L. Crawford, with him Mary Teresa Gavigan, for appellant.

Lee C. Fuller, Carney, Good, Brabender & Walsh, for appellee.

Judges Wilkinson, Jr., MacPhail and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 463]

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County that reversed the final order of the PLRB and dismissed the complaint against Stairways, Inc. (Stairways). The PLRB's order held that Stairways had committed unfair labor practices in violation of Sections 1201(a)(1) and (3) of the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA),*fn1 by discharging its employee, James Hoffman (Hoffman), because of his union activities.

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 464]

We reverse and affirm the order of the PLRB with modification.

Hoffman was hired August 1, 1973 by Stairways, a social service agency offering rehabilitative services to emotionally disturbed individuals. He was a therapeutic activities worker until his discharge on March 30, 1977. In July of 1976, Hoffman began to encourage employees of Stairways to join a union. He conducted several organizational meetings utilizing Stairways' facilities having first obtained their permission to do so. The first such meeting was held September 20, 1976. Management representatives of Stairways were present at at least one of those early meetings and were at all times aware of Hoffman's union activities. At the first organizational meeting, the Executive Director (Director) of Stairways discussed the futility of organizing Stairways alone, independent of the county mental health and mental retardation system. On September 29, 1976, the Director issued a five page memorandum to all employees entitled "Fact Sheet and Analysis." Included in that memorandum was a statement of Stairways' position on unionization which reads as follows:

ON UNIONIZATION -- One point that should be made clear to all employees. Should an election be held for a union at Stairways, those employees who do not desire the union must vote 'No.' The reason for this is that determination of union or non-union status depends only upon a majority vote of those eligible persons who actually vote. As a result, if you have doubts or don't want the union, the only way you can prevent it is by voting ' NO.' Failure to vote means you have no voice in the process.

Finally, at the risk of raising your anti-authoritarian feelings, I do want to make it clear that I do not support or endorse an attempt

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 465]

    to unionize Stairways singularly. I would also like to note that I do not view it as a personal struggle or battle in as much as I have been able to discover very little that I could lose personally through your unionization. You should keep in mind that the union has nothing to lose and everything to gain by its attempt. However, I do not see our agency, its ...


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