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AFSCME, Local 159 v. City of Philadelphia

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 10, 2014

AFSCME, District Council 33 and AFSCME, Local 159, Appellants
v.
City of Philadelphia

Argued,  February 10, 2014

Appealed from No. April Term, 2012, No. 02763. Common Pleas Court of the County of Philadelphia. Tucker, J.

Claiborne S. Newlin, and Samuel L. Spear, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Shannon D. Farmer, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE McGINLEY.

OPINION

Page 967

McGINLEY, JUDGE

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council

Page 968

33 (AFSCME), and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 159 (Local 159) (collectively, Union) appeal the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (common pleas court) that denied the Union's petition to vacate an interest arbitration award entered pursuant to the Public Employe Relations Act[1] (" Act 195" ), 43 P.S. § § 1101.101 - 1101.2301.

AFSCME is the exclusive bargaining representative for the City of Philadelphia's (City) nonprofessional and non-uniformed employees. Local 159 is a local organization within AFSCME which primarily provides day-to-day representation of the City's correctional officers.[2]

The City and AFSCME are parties to a collective bargaining agreement covering 10,000 employees of the City, including more than 2,000 employees of the Philadelphia Prison System. The collective bargaining agreement governs the wages, hours and working conditions of the employees represented by the Union, including those in Local 159.

In 2009, after negotiations failed to result in an agreement, interest arbitration was invoked pursuant to Act 195. Twelve days of hearings were held before an arbitration panel. It was the City's position that it did not have the money to fund the Union's demands. The City asserted that it faced historic financial difficulties and that increasing costs associated with the City's workforce would challenge the City's financial viability. The City argued that consideration of an employer's ability to pay in an interest arbitration proceeding was appropriate and permissible. The City cited the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority Act for Cities of the First Class, (PICA Act), 53 P.S. § § 12720.101, et seq.[3] The City presented the testimony of its Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity and its Director of Finance.

The Union's position was that it sought fair compensation for its members who it argued were subjected to extraordinarily difficult, hazardous, and dangerous working conditions. The Union argued that the City's financial health was irrelevant.

On March 16, 2012, the arbitration panel issued an award. The award provided benefit increases and changes in working conditions that were sought by the Union and also awarded modifications requested by the City. The arbitration panel determined it was proper to consider the City's " ability to pay." The panel noted that the Union presented no substantive economic evidence to challenge the economic evidence presented ...


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