Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County in the case of Greater Johnstown Area Vocational Technical School v. Greater Johnstown Area Vocational Technical Education Association, No. 1982-3480.
Gary L. Costlow, with him, Marlin B. Stephens, for appellant.
William K. Eckel, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr., Craig, MacPhail, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Palladino. Judge Colins dissents. Judge Williams, Jr., did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 142]
Before us is the appeal of the Greater Johnstown Area Vocational-Technical School (Vo-Tech) from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County which affirmed an arbitrator's award in favor of the Greater Johnstown Area Vocational-Technical Education Association (Association).
The Vo-Tech and the Association were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (agreement) which was in effect July 1, 1981 through June 30, 1984. On October 27, 1981, the Vo-Tech sent a letter to the president of the Association informing her (1) that Association members are prohibited from conducting Association business during normal school hours and (2) that Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) field representatives are prohibited from entering the school building during the normal work day to engage in Association activities. The Association thereafter filed a grievance pursuant to the agreement. The arbitrator granted the Association's grievance and found that because a "past practice" of permitting PSEA field representatives to appear at the Vo-Tech to meet with the Association president and/or other teachers' during their preparation or lunch periods existed and had evolved into an employment condition incorporated into the parties' agreement, the Vo-Tech had violated the agreement.
Before this Court the Vo-Tech contends: (1) that because the dispute involved PSEA field representatives who are not covered by the agreement, the dispute is not arbitrable; (2) that the award does not draw its essence from the agreement; and (3) that
[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 143]
pursuant to the Public School Code of 1949 (School Code)*fn1 it had the right to prevent the interruption of its educational program.
With respect to the threshold issue of arbitrability, our Supreme Court stated in County of Allegheny v. Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union, 476 Pa. 27, 381 A.2d 849 (1977):
As this Court noted in Board of Education of Philadelphia v. Federation of Teachers Local No. 3, 464 Pa. 92, 99, 346 A.2d 35, 39 (1975), Pennsylvania labor policy not only favors but requires the submission to arbitration of public employee grievances "arising out of the interpretation of the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement". [Citation omitted.] From this policy is derived the corollary principle that where, as here, an arbitrator has interpreted a collective bargaining agreement in favor of the arbitrability of the grievance before him, a reviewing court should be slow indeed to disagree. As the Supreme Court of the United States observed in United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Company, 363 U.S. 574, 584-85, 80 S. Ct. 1347, 1354, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409 (1960):
"In the absence of any express provision excluding a particular grievance from arbitration, we think only the most forceful evidence of a purpose to exclude the claim from arbitration can prevail, particularly where, as here, the exclusion clause is vague and the ...