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Dauphin County Commissioners v. Teamsters Local No. 776

November 21, 2011

DAUPHIN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
v.
TEAMSTERS LOCAL NO. 776, APPELLANT
DAUPHIN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, LOCAL 776, APPELLANT



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

Argued: June 9, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge*fn1 HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge (P.) HONORABLE RENEE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge

OPINION BY JUDGE COHN JUBELIRER

Teamsters Local No. 776 (Teamsters) appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County (trial court) that granted the Motion for Summary Judgment of the Dauphin County (County) Commissioners (Commissioners), denied Teamsters‟ Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, and set aside the Arbitration Panel‟s Interest Arbitration Award (Award) that resulted from mandatory arbitration under the Pennsylvania Employe Relations Act (PERA).*fn2 The Arbitration Panel held that Section 1620 of the County Code,*fn3 16 P.S. § 1620, does not prevent the Commissioners from bargaining collectively on behalf of the County Prison Board (Board) with regard to supervisory matters over the Board‟s employees (e.g., correctional officers and other prison employees). The trial court disagreed, holding that the reservation of managerial rights clause of Section 1620 applies to the Board and, therefore, matters relating to the Board‟s supervision of its employees are not arbitrable. Teamsters argue that Section 1620 does not apply to the Board or, if it applies, Section 1620 does not exempt the Board from the duty to bargain over the supervisory matters considered by the Arbitration Panel and that the Commissioners do not have standing to defend the interests of the Board.

Pursuant to Section 1731 of the Prisons and Parole Code, 61 Pa. C.S. § 1731, the Board is composed entirely of ex officio members (by virtue of the offices they hold), specifically: the County‟s Commissioners, district attorney, sheriff, controller, and president judge of the trial court. The Board oversees the County‟s prison and the prison‟s employees. Pursuant to Section 1620, the Commissioners bargain collectively with the employees‟ union, the Teamsters. In 2005, the Commissioners bargained with Teamsters in an attempt to reach an agreement for the term of January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2010. However, the parties were not able to reach an agreement, an impasse was declared under PERA, and the matter was referred to the Arbitration Panel.

The Arbitration Panel held three interest arbitration hearings on December 12, 2006, February 2, 2007, and April 10, 2007. The president judge of the trial court appeared on behalf of the Board to argue that, pursuant to Section 1620, the Commissioners did not have the authority to bargain over matters relating to the supervision of the Board‟s employees.*fn4 The Commissioners also raised this argument to the Arbitration Panel. On August 21, 2007, the Arbitration Panel issued its Award, in which it held that there was not a clear court ruling supporting the Commissioners‟ position, and that the status quo, i.e. the provisions of the previous contract, would remain in effect with regard to these provisions.*fn5

Commissioners filed a Petition to Review and Vacate an Arbitration Award (Petition) with the trial court*fn6 on December 31, 2010. Commissioners filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which the trial court granted. The trial court held that the definition of ""county office‟ [sic*fn7 ] within the meaning of Section 1620" encompassed the Board. (Trial Ct. Amended Op. at 5.) The trial court relied, in part, upon this Court‟s reasoning in Fayette County Board of Commissioners v. American Federation of State, County, and Federal Employees (Fayette I), No. 3426 C.D. 1995, 1996 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 331 (Pa. Cmwlth. July 19, 1996) reconsidered en banc (Fayette II), 692 A.2d 274 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1997) (en banc). Relying also upon Franklin County Prison Board v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 491 Pa. 50, 417 A.2d 1138 (1980) and Lycoming County Prison Board v. Department of Labor and Industry, 405 A.2d 985 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1979), the trial court concluded that the Board falls within Section 1620 and, therefore, the management rights were reserved for the Board and were not negotiable by the Commissioners or arbitrable by the Arbitration Commission. The trial court granted Commissioners‟ Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of the Petition. Teamsters now appeal to this Court.*fn8

Before this Court, Teamsters argue that: (1) the Commissioners do not have standing to challenge the Award; (2) the reservation of managerial rights clause of Section 1620 does not include the Board; and (3) even if the reservation of managerial rights clause of Section 1620 includes the Board, the Board nonetheless has a duty to negotiate with Teamsters pursuant to PERA.

Prior to analyzing the parties‟ arguments, it is helpful to discuss the purpose of PERA as it relates to Section 1620. "By enacting PERA the legislature, in an effort to promote orderly and constructive relationships between public employers and their employees, authorized public employees to organize and required public employers to recognize and bargain with the employees‟ representatives." County of Lehigh v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 507 Pa. 270, 273, 489 A.2d 1325, 1327 (1985). Confusion sometimes arose as to which entity was the proper public employer for purposes of collective bargaining under PERA. For example, in Costigan v. Local 696, AFSCME, 462 Pa. 425, 341 A.2d 456 (1975), the Supreme Court held that the City of Philadelphia was indispensable to collective bargaining with respect to employees supervised by the Register of Wills of Philadelphia because, although the Register of Wills had the authority to supervise and discharge these employees, the City of Philadelphia paid their remuneration and fringe benefits. Id. at 434-35, 341 A.2d at 461. With regard to counties, the Supreme Court held that "county commissioners . . . act as the managerial representative in proceedings under [PERA], regardless of the supervisory authority of another body." Lycoming County Prison Board, 405 A.2d at 988 (citing Commonwealth ex rel. Bradley v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 479 Pa. 440, 388 A.2d 736 (1978); Ellenbogen v. County of Allegheny, 479 Pa. 429, 388 A.2d 730 (1978); Sweet v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 479 Pa. 449, 388 A.2d 740 (1978)) (emphasis in original). In conjunction with these holdings, Section 1620 makes clear that county commissioners are the sole public employer for purposes of collective bargaining under PERA. Lycoming County Prison Board, 405 A.2d at 988-89. Despite the limitation of the joint public employer concept, however, the reservation of managerial rights clause prevents county commissioners from bargaining, without prior authorization from the court of common pleas or relevant county officer, regarding managerial aspects of the principal employer‟s supervision. See County of Lehigh, 507 Pa. at 277, 489 A.2d at 1328 ("Section 1620 explicitly states that the county commissioners are to "represent judges . . . .‟ We have interpreted that phrase to mean "sit on behalf of judges‟ . . . The judges are principals in the negotiations.") (emphasis in original). With this background in mind, we now turn to the question of whether the reservation of managerial rights clause applies to prison boards in this case.

We first address Teamsters argument that the Commissioners do not have standing to challenge the Award on the grounds that it violates the rights of the Board where the Board is not a party to the case. Teamsters argue that it is a cornerstone of Commissioners‟ argument that they do not have the authority to bargain on behalf of the Board. If the rights of the Board were infringed by the Award, then it is the Board, not the Commissioners, who were aggrieved by the Award and have standing to appeal it. Commissioners, however, do not argue that they do not have the authority and duty to bargain on behalf of the Board; the Commissioners argue that, while they have the obligation to bargain on behalf of the Board, they do not have the authority to bargain regarding the managerial rights entrusted to the Board by Section 1620.

In County of Lehigh, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that:

Section 1620 explicitly states that the county commissioners are to "represent the judges of the court of common pleas" in negotiations. We have interpreted that phrase to mean "sit on behalf of judges." The judges are principals in the negotiations participating through the county commissioners. Thus[,] the county commissioners are clearly charged with the responsibility of representing the judges' managerial interests, as well as their own, in contract negotiations with court-appointed employees.

County of Lehigh, 507 Pa. at 277, 489 A.2d at 1328 (quoting Ellenbogen, 479 Pa. at 437, 388 A.2d at 734.) Given that Commissioners are acting as agents for the Board in negotiations and arbitrations in this matter, they have an interest in objecting to the Award, which they argue contravenes Section 1620. Therefore, this Court holds that the Commissioners have standing to challenge the Award.

Next, we address Teamsters‟ argument that the reservation of managerial rights clause of Section 1620 does not include the Board because the Board, although composed entirely of ex officio County officers, is not itself a County officer. Section 1620 provides, in part, that a "board of county commissioners shall have the sole power and responsibility to represent judges of the court of common pleas, the county and all elected or appointed county officers having any employment powers over the affected employes." 16 P.S. § 1620. However, the reservation of managerial rights clause in Section 1620 provides that "[t]he exercise of such responsibilities by the county commissioners shall in no way affect the hiring, discharging and supervising rights and obligations with respect to such employes as may be vested in the judges or other county officers." Id. Pursuant to Section 1731, the Board is made up exclusively of ex officio County officers. 61 Pa. C.S. § 1731. As Commissioners point out, Article IX, Section 4 of the Pennsylvania Constitution sets out who are county officers: "County officers shall consist of commissioners, controllers or auditors, district attorneys, public defenders, ...


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