Appealed From No. 96-E-12. Common Pleas Court of the County of Lehigh. Judge REIBMAN.
Before: Honorable Joseph T. Doyle, Judge, Honorable Rochelle S. Friedman, Judge, Honorable Charles A. Lord, Senior Judge. Opinion BY Senior Judge Lord. Judge Leadbetter did not participate in the decision in this case.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lord
OPINION BY SENIOR JUDGE LORD
This is an appeal by the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union, Local No. 391, AFL-CIO (Union) of a Lehigh County Common Pleas Court order denying its motion for summary judgment and granting the summary judgment motion of the School District of the City of Allentown (School District).
This matter had its beginning in 1991, when the Union filed a grievance alleging that the School District had unilaterally changed the basis of paying School District kitchen helpers from a yearly salary to an hourly salary. The grievance proceeded to arbitration, and the arbitrator ruled in favor of the Union. His award was upheld by the common pleas court and by this Court. School District of the City of Allentown v. Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union, Local 391, AFL-CIO, 654 A.2d 86 (Pa. Commw. 1995), allocatur denied, 541 Pa. 629, 661 A.2d 876 (1995).
In our decision there, we said, at 654 A.2d at 87,
the nub of the controversy in this appeal concerns the interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement (cba) between the school district and the union which became effective July 1, 1991 and expired June 30, 1994.
In sustaining the Union's grievance and ordering a remedy, the arbitrator stated one of the issues as follows.
Under the 1991-1994 Collective Bargaining Agreement, should General Kitchen Helpers be paid an annual salary or an hourly rate for actual hours worked?
(Arbitration Award, May 13, 1992, p. 1). The arbitrator then found that "the [School] District violated [the cba] by not paying the Helpers an annual salary based on 190-days....Since the District has an obligation to ensure that each affected employee receives the 190-days pay and since there is still time remaining in the current school year, it is directed to pay all required compensation prior to the end of the school year." (Arbitration Award, 5/13/92, p.8).
The School District paid the kitchen helpers for the 1991-92 school year in accordance with the binding arbitration award, but it has not paid kitchen helpers on an annual basis for the 1992-93 and 1993-94 academic years. Consequently, on March 22, 1996, the Union filed a complaint in equity in common pleas court, alleging that the School District refused to pay kitchen helpers for the latter two school years and continued to refuse to pay them for those years. The Union sought relief in the form of an order directing payment for those two years, for interest and for legal costs. The School District answered the complaint and alleged, in essence, that it was not obligated by the terms of arbitration award to pay kitchen helpers on an annual salary basis except for the 1991-92 academic year.
The common pleas court, on cross-motions for summary judgment, found that it had no jurisdiction because the Union was charging the School District with refusal to comply with a binding arbitration award, and such a refusal is an unfair labor practice as set forth in Section 1201(a)(8) of the PERA, 43 P.S. § 1101.1201(a)(8). The court reasoned that, as such, the charge lodged by the Union was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. Hollinger v. Department of Public Welfare, 469 Pa. 358, 365 A.2d 1245, (1976) ("if party seeks redress of conduct arguably constituting one of the enumerated unfair labor practices in Article XII of the PERA, jurisdiction to determine whether unfair labor practice has occurred is in PLRB, and nowhere else"). The court on this ground granted the School District's motion for summary judgment.
We state at the outset our agreement with the common pleas court that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the Union's complaint in equity. An examination of pertinent provisions of the PERA and recent caselaw will illustrate why ...