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INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FIRE FIGHTERS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (02/10/86)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: February 10, 1986.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS, LOCAL 2844, AFL-CIO, CLC, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, RESPONDENT

Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in case of In The Matter of the Employes of Lower Merion Township Fire Department; Lower Merion Township Union Fire Association; Merion Fire Company; Belmont Hills Fire Company; Penn Wynne-Overbrook Hills Fire Company; Bryn Mawr Fire Company and Gladwyne Fire Company, Case No. PF-R-81-55-E.

COUNSEL

Samuel L. Spear, with him, Warren J. Borish, Meranze, Katz, Spear & Wilderman, for petitioner.

Kathryn Speaker MacNett, with her, James L. Crawford and Ellis H. Katz, for respondent.

John Markle, Jr., with him, James A. Matthews, III, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, for intervenors, Lower Merion Township et al.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judges Rogers, Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 95]

The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2844, AFL-CIO, CLC (Union), appeals a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (Board) order dismissing its exceptions to a hearing examiner's proposed order. The examiner's order proposed to dismiss the Union's petition for investigation and certification of representatives for the eighteen paid firemen of the six volunteer fire companies located in Lower Merion Township. The examiner concluded that the Township and the volunteer fire companies were not "joint employers" for collective bargaining purposes. We affirm the Board's order.

Each of the six volunteer fire companies in Lower Merion Township employs three paid firemen, or "housemen," as they are commonly called. The housemen are responsible for driving vehicles to and from fire scenes and maintaining the firefighting equipment and the fire houses. The volunteer companies are not associated with each other and operate with funds contributed by Lower Merion Township*fn1 and private sources. To coordinate firefighting, the Township established the Lower Merion Township Fire Department, which consists of six township employees who are not firemen within the meaning of what is commonly known as the Policemen or Firemen Collective

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 96]

Bargaining Act (Act 111).*fn2 The Union seeks to establish that the volunteer fire companies and Township are joint employers of the housemen. Because the township is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth, the Union seeks certification under Act 111.

Our scope of review of a Board order is limited to a determination of whether the Board's findings are supported by substantial and legally credible evidence and whether its conclusions based on facts are reasonable and not capricious, illegal or arbitrary. Erie County Area Vocational-Technical School v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 52 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 388, 417 A.2d 796 (1980).

The issue before this Court is whether the Board erred in concluding that the Township and the individual fire companies were not joint employers of the housemen.

To determine whether an employer-employee relationship exists, the hearing examiner inquired into "[w]hether the township possesses and exercises the right to hire, fire and control the conditions of employment of the housemen, in combination with the volunteer fire companies. . . ."*fn3

The Union contends that this standard is not consistent with the "joint employer" test enunciated in Sweet v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 457 Pa. 456, 322 A.2d 362 (1974), and explained in Costigan v. Philadelphia Finance Department Employees Local 696, 462 Pa. 425, 341 A.2d 456 (1975). We disagree.

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 97]

Finally, each fire company is responsible for and actually hires, disciplines and terminates its housemen.

In contrast, the Township's sole involvement with the fire companies is through its Fire Department, which coordinates a firefight when three or more companies are called and directs the work of the fire chiefs, not the individual volunteer firefighters). Economically, the Township appropriates lump sum monies for each fire company, provides statutorily mandated workmen's compensation insurance for the housemen,*fn7 and makes available Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage to the housemen whose respective companies have requested it. Finally, the Township has the conditional authority to disapprove the hiring of a houseman.*fn8

We agree with the Board that these peripheral contacts do not amount to any substantive authority or real control over the economic and conditional terms of employment for the housemen at the individual volunteer fire companies. Local 1400, Chester City Fire Fighters Association v. Nacrelli, 30 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 242, 373 A.2d 472 (1977). This conclusion is in accord with the purposes and principles of labor

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 99]

    law in that future negotiations will involve only parties with direct and immediate interests.

We hold that the Board's findings are supported by substantial evidence and that it made no error of law in concluding that the Township and the volunteer fire companies are not joint employers.

Affirmed.

Order

The order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, No. PF-R-81-55-E dated January 19, 1983, is affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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