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Central Dauphin School Dist. v. Central Dauphin Bus Drivers' Association

May 19, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Cohn Jubelirer

Argued: March 15, 2010



Central Dauphin School District (the District) appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County (trial court), which denied the District's complaint for declaratory relief (Complaint). The trial court denied the District's request for a declaration that the impasse procedures and timeframes of The Public Employe Relations Act, commonly known as Act 195,*fn2 applied to the mid-contract bargaining dispute between the District and the Central Dauphin Bus Drivers' Association (Association), and not the terms of the act commonly known as Act 88,*fn3 as asserted by the Association. On appeal, the District argues that the trial court erred as a matter of law by concluding that the mid-contract dispute here is governed by Act 88 and by holding that Act 88 repeals, in this particular case, the impasse procedures and timeframes set forth in Act 195. The District does not argue that it was not required to bargain over the proposed privatization of its transportation, (District's Reply Br. at 2), but contends that because Act 88 applies only to new or successor collective bargaining agreements, this mid-contract bargaining, and any disputes occurring mid-contract, are subject to the impasse procedures and timeframes of Act 195.

I. Background

On September 8, 2008, the District and the Association entered into a collective bargaining agreement (2008 CBA) for transportation services for a three-year term.*fn4 In June of 2009, the District began exploring the possibility of privatizing its transportation services and issued a request for proposals from various vendors. On July 1, 2009, Durham School Services (Durham) sent a proposal to the District. Based on Durham's proposal, the District estimated that it could save approximately eleven million dollars over the next five years by privatizing its transportation services. The Association did not submit a proposal. Instead, the Association filed an unfair labor charge with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (Board) on August 4, 2009, alleging that the District failed to provide it the information or provided it incomplete information necessary for bargaining on the issue of privatizing the District's transportation services.

On August 10, 2009, the District's School Board voted to accept Durham's proposal. The next day, August 11, 2009, the Association submitted the dispute to the Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Mediation (Department) for mandatory mediation pursuant to Act 88 and Act 195. On August 12, 2009, the District advised the Department of its position that the dispute resolution procedures under Act 88 did not apply here because the parties were not negotiating a new contract or a renewal contract. Thus, on August 14, 2009, the District filed a notice with the Department seeking to proceed with mediation under Act 195. A mediation session took place between the District and the Association on August 20, 2009.

The District and the Association attended hearings on the unfair labor practice complaint on August 27, 2009 and September 1, 2009. On September 2, 2009, the Association amended its unfair labor practice complaint to allege that the current mid-contract dispute should be resolved using the impasse procedures provided by Act 88 and that the District had not complied with Act 88. In response, the District filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the trial court, not the Board, had jurisdiction to determine whether Act 88 or Act 195 applies in these circumstances.

On October 14, 2009, while the unfair labor complaint was proceeding with the Board, the District filed its Complaint seeking the following declaration: "the collective bargaining timelines and impasse resolution procedures contained in [Act 88] do not apply to the parties' current dispute involving mid-contract bargaining over whether the District may contract out its transportation services to a private company." (Complaint ¶ 1, R.R. at 10a.) The Association filed its Answer With New Matter, opposing the declaration and asserting that Act 88 applies to the parties' mid-contract bargaining, as evidenced by the unambiguous language of Act 88, the Nisi Order of Certification indicating that the parties were governed by Act 88, the parties' participation in Act 88 mediation, the use of a fact-finder as required by Act 88, and the Board's request for a written report pursuant to Act 88. (Answer With New Matter ¶ ¶ 79-80, 83-89, R.R. at 116a-18a.)

The trial court heard oral argument from the parties on November 10, 2009. After considering the parties' filings and arguments, the trial court issued a memorandum opinion on November 20, 2009 stating that it could not declare that the terms of Act 195 governed under these particular circumstances. The trial court noted, as a preliminary matter, that the District conceded that the definition of an "Employe Organization" under Act 88 includes school bus drivers. (Trial Ct. Op. at 2.) Then, after reviewing Act 88's language, the trial court concluded that there was no ambiguity in that language that would permit it to review the legislative history of the enactment of Act 88, which the District contended would support its position that Act 195, not Act 88, would apply here. (Trial Ct. Op. at 3.) Specifically, the trial court stated:

In the absence of ambiguity in the language of a statute, this court may not consider other sources to inform its construction of that statute. Here, there is simply no ambiguity to be found. Indeed, at argument the District agreed that there was no language contained within Act 88 which would limit its application to the negotiation of initial or successor agreements. This court can find not a term, clause, or definition in [Act 88] which is ambiguous in this respect.

(Trial Ct. Op. at 3.) Moreover, the trial court held that, even if it was to consider the legislative history (consisting of transcripts of the Senate floor debate), it still would not conclude that Act 195 applied here as such history "does not cement the District's position" because it "is only some evidence of legislative intent. It is not subject to enactment or presentment and represents only a keyhole view of the legislative process." (Trial Ct. Op. at 3-4.) The trial court held that the purpose of Act 88 was to prevent disruption of the school year and that this purpose "is best served by avoiding a construction which incentivizes mid-term termination of collective bargaining agreements as a means to obtain the less rigorous impasse procedures of Act 195." (Trial Ct. Op. at 4.) The District filed a notice of appeal and a statement of matters complained of on appeal with the trial court. By letter dated January 4, 2010, the trial court deferred to its November 20, 2009 memorandum opinion. The District now appeals to this Court.*fn5

On appeal, the District asserts that the trial court erred and/or abused its discretion by concluding that Act 88 applies to the present mid-contract bargaining dispute and that the impasse procedures and timeframes of Act 195 are inconsistent with those of Act 88 and are, therefore, repealed to that extent. The District argues that the trial court's decision was in error because: (1) the express language of Act 88, specifically, Section 1152-A of Act 88, 24 P.S. § 11-1152-A, establishes that Act 88 applies only when parties are entering into a new collective bargaining agreement; (2) there is no provision in Act 88 making it applicable to negotiations involving privatization and the legislative history does not support the trial court's contrary interpretation; (3) the trial court should have deferred to the Board's decisions interpreting mid-contract disputes over privatization under Act 195, not Act 88; and (4) the trial court's construction of Act 88 would lead to absurd, illogical, and impracticable results.

II. Act 195 and Act 88

Act 195, enacted in 1970, and Act 88, enacted in 1992 as an amendment to the Public School Code of 1949 (School Code),*fn6 contain similar provisions and procedures applicable to collective bargaining and the resolution of impasses or disputes that arise during the collective bargaining process.*fn7 The terms of Act 195 apply to all public employers and employees, and govern, among other things, the collective bargaining process, the resolution of collective bargaining impasses and disputes, and the filing and resolution of unfair labor practices complaints. In contrast, Act 88 describes the collective bargaining process between public school entities and those public school employees who bargain collectively, Carroll v. Ringgold Education Association, 545 Pa. 192, 200-01, 680 A.2d 1137, 1141 (1996), including the strike and lockout procedures. See, e.g., Sections 1101-A, 1131-A, and 1132-A of Act 88, 24 P.S. §§ 11-1101-A (defining strike and lockout), 11-1131-A (prohibiting strikes in certain circumstances), and 11-1132-A (prohibiting lockouts in certain circumstances). In Carroll, our Supreme Court described Act 88 and its relationship with Act 195 as follows:

Act 88 was enacted in 1992, as article XI-A of the Public School Code. See 24 P.S. §§ 11-1101-A through 11-1172-A. Act 88 provides for collective bargaining between public school entities and public school employes or employe organizations. Section 6 of Act 88 provides: '[Act 195] is to be read in pari materia with the addition of Article XI-A of [Act 88], but [Act 195] is repealed insofar as it is clearly inconsistent with the addition of Article XI-A of the Act.' (See 24 P.S. § 11-1101-A Historical and Statutory Notes.)

Carroll, 545 Pa. at 200, 680 A.2d at 1141 (footnote omitted). Act 88 governs strike and lockout procedures and prohibitions to ...

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