Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

AMERICAN FEDERATION STATE v. LUZERNE COUNTY (05/04/88)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: May 4, 1988.

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, DISTRICT COUNCIL 87, APPELLANT
v.
LUZERNE COUNTY, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, in the case of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, District Council 87 v. Luzerne County, No. 1320-C of 1985.

COUNSEL

Alaine S. Williams, Kirschner, Walters & Willig, for appellant.

Richard M. Goldberg, County Solicitor, for appellee.

Judges Doyle and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 115 Pa. Commw. Page 605]

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, District Council 87 (Appellant) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County (trial court) affirming an arbitration award rendered pursuant to a grievance filed by Appellant against Luzerne County (Appellee). We affirm.

Appellee and Appellant were parties to a collective bargaining agreement effective from January 1, 1983 to December 31, 1985. Appellant was certified as the bargaining representative for certain employees of Appellee.

[ 115 Pa. Commw. Page 606]

Frank Roman (Grievant) was employed by Appellee in 1970 as a printer.*fn1 Appellee eliminated Grievant's job in February of 1984 and instructed him not to report for work on March 5, 1984. Grievant thereafter attempted to exercise seniority rights under the parties' collective bargaining agreement in order to "bump" into another position.*fn2 Appellee prohibited Grievant from doing so on the ground that Grievant was a supervisory employee and therefore was not included within the bargaining unit.

Appellant filed a grievance on behalf of Grievant, alleging that Grievant was a member of the bargaining unit and that Appellee had violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement by refusing to allow Grievant to exercise seniority rights under the agreement. Appellant contended that Grievant was not a supervisor arguing that Grievant had paid union dues, was a member of the bargaining unit at one time, was not officially promoted, and that his name was on several seniority lists.

A hearing was held before an arbitrator on January 16, 1985.*fn3 By decision dated March 11, 1985, the arbitrator

[ 115 Pa. Commw. Page 607]

    determined that that Grievant was a supervisory employee and thus was not a member of the bargaining unit at the time his job was eliminated.*fn4 The arbitrator concluded that Appellee had not violated the collective bargaining agreement by denying him seniority rights.

Appellant filed a petition with the trial court, alleging that the arbitrator exceeded his authority, and requested that the award be vacated.*fn5 Appellant contended that the question of an employee's bargaining unit status is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) under Section 604 of the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA).*fn6 Appellant also argued that the arbitrator exceeded his contractual authority because the award did not draw its essence from the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. By order dated February 10, 1987, the trial court affirmed the award of the arbitrator and held that arbitrator did have jurisdiction to determine whether Grievant was a member of the bargaining unit at the time his job was eliminated.

On appeal to this court, Appellant contends that the arbitrator exceeded his statutory authority because the PLRB has jurisdiction to determine the bargaining unit status of an employee. Appellant also contends that the arbitrator exceeded his contractual authority because

[ 115 Pa. Commw. Page 608]

    the award did not draw its essence from the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

We note that the scope of review of an arbitrator's decision is limited and the decision will not be overturned if it draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement. Leechburg Area School District v. Dale, 492 Pa. 515, 424 A.2d 1309 (1981). The Supreme Court in Leechburg held that the "essence test" requires a determination of whether the terms of the collective bargaining agreement encompass the subject matter of the dispute. If the subject matter of the dispute is encompassed within the terms of the agreement, the validity of the arbitrator's decision is not a proper matter for judicial review. Id. at 520-21, 424 A.2d 1312-13. See Commonwealth v. Joint Bargaining Committee of Pennsylvania Social Services Union, 88 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 321, 489 A.2d 311 (1985).

In order to determine whether an arbitrator's award draws its essence from the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the award must be examined in light of the language of the collective bargaining agreement, its context, and any other indicia of the parties' intention. McKeesport Area School District v. McKeesport Area Education Association, 56 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 224, 424 A.2d 979 (1981).

Appellant first argues that the arbitrator exceeded his statutory authority because the question of an employee's bargaining unit status is within the jurisdiction of the PLRB under Section 604 of PERA.*fn7 This court has held that the focus of Section 604 is to provide PLRB certification of a bargaining unit. West Shore School District v. West Shore Education Association, 102 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 574, 519 A.2d 552 (1986). Once that certification has been obtained, the PLRB

[ 115 Pa. Commw. Page 609]

    may also determine whether a particular employee is a member of that unit. Id.

The PLRB's jurisdiction to determine whether a particular employee is a member of the unit, however, is not exclusive. Although an arbitrator may not alter the definition of the bargaining unit, an arbitrator does have jurisdiction to determine whether an employee is a member of the unit as it has been defined. Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit No. 5 Education Association v. Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit No. 5, 77 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 92, 465 A.2d 89 (1983).

In this case, Article I, Section 1 of the collective bargaining agreement provides that Appellant is recognized as the exclusive bargaining representative for employees established by the certification of the PLRB.*fn8 Article I, Section 2 specifies that the collective bargaining agreement only applies to those employees falling within the certification as provided in Section 1. Finally, Article I, Section 3 states that the term "employees" as used in the collective bargaining agreement refers only to those individuals falling within the certification as provided in Section 1.

We have held that where the PLRB certification of representation is incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement, the parties to that agreement render the question of whether a particular employee is a member of the bargaining unit a matter of contract interpretation. Northwest Tri-County, 77 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 96, 465 A.2d at 91. Where an employee's bargaining unit status is a matter of contract interpretation,

[ 115 Pa. Commw. Page 610]

    that status is a proper subject for arbitration under the "essence test." Id. Therefore, the arbitrator in this case did have jurisdiction to determine Grievant's unit status.

Appellant also contends that the arbitrator's award did not draw its essence from the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and was in excess of the arbitrator's contractual authority.*fn9 In this case, the arbitrator determined that Grievant was a supervisory employee.*fn10 The arbitrator based this conclusion upon Grievant's authority to make hiring, transfer, and discipline recommendations; his listing on the staff roster as a supervisor; his identification card; personnel records; and the fact that he had accumulated more sick days than those allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

As noted above, the issue of Grievant's unit status was a matter of contract interpretation. The arbitrator resolved this issue in favor of Appellee based upon the

[ 115 Pa. Commw. Page 611]

    evidence presented. The fact that the arbitrator may have failed to properly perceive the question presented or erroneously resolved it does not provide justification for judicial interference. Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit Education Association v. Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit No. 16, 74 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 248, 459 A.2d 889 (1983). So long as the arbitrator's interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement was reasonable, this court will not intrude into the domain of the arbitrator simply because its interpretation might differ from that of the arbitrator. See School District of Duquesne v. Duquesne Education Association, 99 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 63, 512 A.2d 103 (1986).

Because we conclude that the arbitrator's award did not exceed his authority and draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement, the trial court properly affirmed the award.

Accordingly, we affirm.

Order

And Now, May 4, 1988, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County in the above-captioned matter is affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.