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PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (10/02/85)

decided: October 2, 1985.

PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY, APPELLEE,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, APPELLANT. PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA PENNSYLVANIA LABOR RELATIONS BOARD. APPEAL OF HOUSING POLICE ASSOCIATION



No. 126 E.D. Appeal Docket 1984; Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered March 21, 1984 at No. 2138 C.D. 1982. No. 133 E.D. Appeal Docket 1984; Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered March 21, 1984 at No. 2138 C.D. 1982.

COUNSEL

James L. Crawford, Philadelphia, Miriam L. Gafni, Neal Goldstein, Michael Kleeman, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Kenneth M. Jarin, Patrick Kelly, Miriam L. Gafni, Neal Goldstein, Michael Kleeman, James L. Crawford, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Larsen, J., dissents.

Author: Nix

[ 508 Pa. Page 578]

OPINION

At issue in the instant case is whether the Philadelphia Housing Authority (hereinafter "PHA") is a public employer

[ 508 Pa. Page 579]

    under the terms of the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, as amended, 43 P.S. § 217.1 et seq. ("Act 111"). This question arises as a result of the contention of the Housing Police Association (hereinafter "HPA") that its members, the security officers employed by PHA, are covered by the provisions of Act 111.

Procedurally, this case arose as follows. On August 31, 1981, HPA filed a petition seeking to represent the officers employed by PHA pursuant to Act 111. HPA requested an expedited election in accordance with Section 7(c) of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act, Act of June 1, 1937, P.L. 1168, as amended, 43 P.S. § 211.1 et seq. (hereinafter "PLRA"), which requires the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (hereinafter "PLRB") to conduct, upon request, an election before determination of the appropriate unit.*fn1 The election was held on October 2, 1981 and the ballots were impounded.

On December 22, 1981, a full hearing was held before the PLRB and on March 9, 1982, the hearing examiner issued an order determining appropriateness of the unit and directing canvassing and counting of impounded and challenged ballots. A nisi order of certification was issued on April 1, 1982, certifying HPA as the exclusive representative of the PHA security officers under Act 111.

Thereafter, PHA filed timely exceptions challenging the PLRB's legal conclusions that the officers are "policemen" under Act 111 and arguing that it is not an "employer" within the meaning of Act 111. These exceptions were dismissed in a final order of the PLRB. PHA then appealed

[ 508 Pa. Page 580]

    to the Commonwealth Court. In an opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr., for the Commonwealth Court, sitting en banc, that court reversed the PLRB on the ground that the PHA was neither the "Commonwealth" nor a "political subdivision of the Commonwealth" and therefore not an employer within the meaning of Act 111. 472 A.2d 1188. The PLRB and HPA were granted appeals by this Court pursuant to Rule of Appellate Procedure 1112.

Appellants contend that the PHA is an agency of the Commonwealth and thereby a public employer within the meaning of Act 111, and the security officers it employs are "policemen" for the purposes of coverage under Act 111. Appellee responds by maintaining that these employees are governed by the Public Employee Relations Act, Act of July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, as amended, 43 P.S. § 1101.301 et seq. (hereinafter "PERA"). At the heart of this issue is the interpretation of section 1 of Act 111 which provides:

Policemen or firemen employed by a political subdivision of the Commonwealth or by the Commonwealth shall, through labor organizations or other representatives designated by fifty percent or more of such policemen or firemen, have the right to bargain collectively with their public employers concerning the terms and conditions of their employment, including compensation, hours, working conditions, retirement, pensions and other benefits, and shall have the right to an adjustment or settlement of their grievances or disputes in accordance with the terms of this act.

43 P.S. § 217.1 (emphasis added).

The Commonwealth Court found that the security officers fell within the parameters of PERA because the definition of a "public employer" under PERA expressly includes the terms ...


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