Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County in the case of Franklin County Prison Board v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, Council 89, Misc. Docket Volume X, Page 456.
Robert S. Mirin, with him Jay R. Braderman, Baskin and Sears, P.C., for appellant.
Alaine S. Williams, Kirschner, Walters & Willig, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
[ 71 Pa. Commw. Page 487]
This case involves an appeal by the Franklin County Prison Board (Prison Board) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County dismissing the Prison Board's appeal of an arbitrator's award.
The procedural history of this case is unusually complex and need only be briefly outlined for the purposes of this opinion. George W. Breneman, a prison guard at the Franklin County Prison, was discharged from his position on July 26, 1976. Mr. Breneman was a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, Council 89 (AFSCME) at the time of his discharge. The most recent collective bargaining agreement between AFSCME and Franklin County carried an expiration date of December 31, 1974. Following an unsuccessful attempt to appeal his discharge under the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. §§ 551-555, 751-754, and a ruling by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB)*fn1 which AFSCME interpreted as reinstating
[ 71 Pa. Commw. Page 488]
prior collective bargaining grievance procedures as of March 31, 1976, AFSCME filed a grievance on behalf of Mr. Breneman. The grievance form was filed on June 20, 1977. The Prison Board refused to process this grievance due to its position that the expired contract with AFSCME had not been renewed and that it, therefore, was under no contractual obligation to act on the grievance. AFSCME's subsequent demand for arbitration, made on February 21, 1978, was similarly rejected by the Prison Board. AFSCME next filed an unfair labor practice charge with the PLRB, which ultimately resulted in an order to arbitrate the grievance upon demand by AFSCME. This order was affirmed by the court of common pleas. The opinions of the PLRB and the court of common pleas specifically preserved for the arbitrator's consideration the issue of the timeliness of the grievance filed on behalf of Mr. Breneman.
The arbitrator rendered his award, in which he partially sustained the grievance, on October 6, 1980. The award provided that Mr. Breneman's discharge be converted to a three month suspension and that he be reinstated to his former position with full back pay and benefits effective October 27, 1976. At issue in the present appeal is the arbitrator's additional ruling that the grievance was timely filed. The court of common pleas affirmed the arbitrator's decision on the timeliness issue and the instant appeal was filed.
The first issue presented for our consideration is whether or not a grievance was timely filed by or on behalf of Mr. Breneman. The record discloses two possible dates on which the grievance could have first been initiated: 1) August 5, 1976, the date of a letter by Mr. Breneman to his supervisor requesting a hearing under the Local Agency Law and reinstatement
[ 71 Pa. Commw. Page 489]
to his former position with full back pay or 2) June 20, 1977, the date on which a written grievance was filed by AFSCME on behalf of Mr. Breneman. The Prison Board contends that the letter of August 5, 1976 was only effective to request a hearing under the Local Agency Law and does not also constitute a grievance. The Prison Board further argues that the June 20, 1977 filing did constitute a grievance, but was filed too late to be acted ...