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CITY SCRANTON v. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS LOCAL NO. 2305 (02/06/85)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: February 6, 1985.

CITY OF SCRANTON, JAMES MCNULTY, MAYOR OF SCRANTON ET AL.
v.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS LOCAL NO. 2305

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County in case of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local No. 2305 v. City of Scranton, James B. McNulty, Mayor of Scranton, and Vincent Manzo, William Gerrity, Michael Melnick, Gerard Donahue and John Martinelli, as members of the Scranton City Council, No. 83 Civil 879.

COUNSEL

John J. Dunn, Sr., Dunn & Byrne, for appellant.

Edmund J. Scacchitti, for appellee.

Judges Williams, Jr. and Palladino and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.

Author: Williams

[ 87 Pa. Commw. Page 425]

Local No. 2305 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (Local 2305) appeals the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County dismissing its complaint on the amended preliminary objections of the defendants, City of Scranton, James McNulty, Mayor of Scranton, and Vincent Manzo, William Gerrity, Michael Melnick, Jerry Donahue and John Martinelli, Members of the Scranton City Council (City).

The underlying dispute arose from the City's alleged attempts to "contract out" maintenance work which was performed by the members of Local 2305. This practice, Local 2305 contends, violates Article XXVIII of the collective bargaining agreement between it and the City (Contract), which provides that "[d]uring the term of this Agreement, the work performed by the members of this unit [Local 2305] shall not be subcontracted by the City to any other municipality, governmental body, individual, partnership or corporation."

[ 87 Pa. Commw. Page 426]

Local 2305 initiated this action in assumpsit; however, after the City filed preliminary objections, the complaint was amended to an action in mandamus (Count I) to require the City to honor Article XXVIII of the contract and prohibit the contracting out of work in violation thereof, and a request for declaratory judgment (Count II) that any City ordinance authorizing the subcontracting of such work is an unconstitutional impairment of contract under Article I, clause 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The City filed amended preliminary objections and, after oral argument, the trial court sustained the preliminary objection as to its jurisdiction due to the presence of a mandatory arbitration clause in the contract.*fn1

The sole issue raised by Local 2305 is whether it was error for the common pleas court to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of jurisdiction in light of the constitutional challenge presented in Count II. Although we recognize that arbitration is the usual and accepted forum for the resolution of disputes under a labor-management contract, especially so where the parties to the contract have so provided, we cannot accept the proposition that even constitutional issues which arise independently of the contract are also the proper subjects of arbitration. As the Superior Court said in determining whether arbitration or the courts were the proper forum in which to decide questions under the "uninsured motorist clause" of automobile insurance policies,

     the rule, to which all the cases conform, is that where the application or construction of the uninsured

[ 87 Pa. Commw. Page 427]

    motorist clause is at issue the dispute is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the arbitrators; the courts will take jurisdiction only where the claimant attacks a particular provision of the clause itself as being contrary to a constitutional, legislative, or administrative mandate, or against public policy, or unconscionable. (Emphasis added.) (Footnotes omitted.)

Webb v. United Services Automobile Association, 227 Pa. Superior Ct. 508, 516, 323 A.2d 737, 741 (1974). Hence, we believe that the trial court erred in not retaining jurisdiction of Count II of the amended complaint and we must remand to that court for appropriate proceedings on the declaratory judgment action.*fn2

Accordingly, we will vacate the order of common pleas court insofar as it pertains to Count II of the amended Complaint.

Order

And Now, this 6th day of February, 1985, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, dated May 24, 1983, in the above-captioned matter is vacated insofar as it pertains to Count II of the amended complaint and that portion of the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Jurisdiction relinquished.

Disposition

Vacated in part and remanded.


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