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PENNSYLVANIA LABOR RELATIONS BOARD v. MICHAEL A. DELLA VECCHIA (02/25/88)

decided: February 25, 1988.

PENNSYLVANIA LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, APPELLEE,
v.
MICHAEL A. DELLA VECCHIA, RECORDER OF DEEDS OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, AND THE COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY. APPEAL OF THE COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY



Appeal from an Opinion and Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania entered June 26, 1985, at No. 816 C.D. 1984, which reversed an Opinion and Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division entered February 17, 1984, at No. S.A. 431 of 1983 and reinstated a Final Order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board entered July 14, 1983, at Case No. PERA-C-82-232-W. Zappala, Justice. Hutchinson, Former Justice did not participate in the decision of this case. Larsen, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Zappala

[ 517 Pa. Page 350]

Opinion

The County of Allegheny appeals an Order of an en banc panel of the Commonwealth Court reversing an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County and reinstating the final Order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB). The PLRB found that an agreement entitled "Memorandum of Understanding", between the Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 585, was a collective bargaining agreement under the terms of the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA), 43 P.S. § 1101.101 et seq. Inherent in that finding was a determination that the Recorder of Deeds was a "public employer" as that term is also defined under PERA, 43 P.S. § 1101.301(1) and under our decisions in Ellenbogen v. County of Allegheny, 479 Pa. 429, 388 A.2d 730 (1978) and Commonwealth ex rel. Bradley v. PLRB, 479 Pa. 440, 388 A.2d 736 (1978). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the Order of the Commonwealth Court.

[ 517 Pa. Page 351]

Recorder responded that the discharges were actually layoffs and as such did not constitute grounds for a grievance under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding. At that point SEIU filed unfair labor practices charges with the PLRB against the Recorder of Deeds and the Board of County Commissioners. The two claims were consolidated for hearing and the hearing examiner issued a proposed order dismissing the charges against the Commissioners, but finding that the Recorder, by his refusal to submit the grievances to binding arbitration, had committed an unfair practice in violation of § 1201(a)(1) and (5) of PERA. The Recorder filed exceptions which the PLRB dismissed and upheld the preliminary determination of the hearing officer. The Recorder appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which found that the Recorder was not a "public employer" under PERA and that the Memorandum of Understanding was not a valid collective bargaining agreement. The PLRB appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which reversed the Common Pleas Order. Commonwealth Court found a type of estoppel, stating that

     while perhaps not obligated to do so under Act 115, [16 P.S. § 1620] the Recorder of Deeds nevertheless negotiated with the union representing his employees an agreement covering those matters within his exclusive control. Having done so, the Recorder cannot now repudiate that agreement by arguing his incapacity to enter into the agreement in the first instance.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, PLRB v. Della Vecchia et al., 90 Commw. 235, 243-44, 494 A.2d 1151, 1156 (1985). While this theory may have an equitable appeal, the approach and the result are contrary to the intent and purpose of the Act. The Commonwealth Court's holding in effect grants legitimacy to the individual row officers as independent "public employers" capable of collective bargaining within the scope of PERA. This was never the purpose of PERA as stated by the legislature or interpreted by the courts. Taken to its logical extreme, the holding allows the

[ 517 Pa. Page 353]

    jurisdictional status of the PLRB to be conferred upon any Collective Bargaining document solely by agreement of the parties involved and would render the provisions of the PERA a nullity.

II. DISCUSSION

In Ellenbogen v. County of Allegheny, 479 Pa. 429, 388 A.2d 730 (1978), Sweet v. PLRB, 479 Pa. 449, 388 A.2d 740 (1978) (Sweet II), and Board of Judges, etc. v. Bucks County Commissioners, 479 Pa. 457, 388 A.2d 744 (1978), this Court interpreted the legislative intent of the PERA regarding the exclusive "managerial representative" for purposes of collective bargaining involving county employees falling within the purview of the Act. In Ellenbogen, we specifically held that the County Commissioners were the sole managerial representatives in proceedings under PERA and therefore were solely responsible for negotiating collective bargaining agreements thereunder. To reach this conclusion we interpreted the then newly amended § 1620 of the County Code, 16 P.S. § 1620, (Act 115) as setting forth the manner and scope of collective bargaining under the PERA.*fn2 Section 1620 provides:

Salaries and Compensation

[ 517 Pa. Page ...


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