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Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle v. Public Employment Relations Commission

January 14, 1991

THE MUNICIPALITY OF METROPOLITAN SEATTLE, APPELLANT,
v.
THE PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS COMMISSION, ET AL, RESPONDENTS



Forrest, J. Grosse, C.j., and Deierlein, J. Pro Tem., concur.

Author: Forrest

In April 1984, the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (Metro) agreed with the City of Seattle to take over operation of the City's commuter pool program and specifically promised that:

METRO shall succeed to the City's obligations under its collective bargaining agreement with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 17, AFL-CIO, . . . as to the represented employees transferred.

Approximately 29 city employees, including five clerical employees represented by International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 17, AFL-CIO (Local 17) were transferred to Metro pursuant to the agreement. The transferred employees were required to complete Metro's "Position Description Questionnaire" form and were reclassified into Metro's personnel system. Metro effected numerous changes of wages, hours and working conditions without notifying Local 17.*fn1 The employees were relocated to a Metro facility in Seattle. The commuter pool program continued to perform the same functions as when operated by the City of Seattle from the date of transfer through at least February 4, 1985.

After execution of the transfer agreement, officials of Local 17 and Metro exchanged correspondence. Metro refused to bargain with Local 17 or to recognize the union as the bargaining representative for the transferred clerical employees. Hence, on October 2, 1984, Local 17 filed suit in

King County Superior Court to compel Metro to recognize and bargain with it.

Meanwhile, on September 28, 1984, Metro had filed a petition with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) seeking clarification of the bargaining unit representing the transferred commuter pool clerical employees. Metro asserted that these employees were represented by Local 587 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Local 587 has never claimed to represent the disputed clerical employees. Local 17 filed an unfair labor practice action against Metro on February 4, 1985. PERC stayed consideration of the complaint pending resolution of the bargaining unit clarification matter.

On March 21, 1986, the Executive Director of PERC determined that Local 17 was the exclusive bargaining representative of the commuter pool clerical employees transferred to Metro. On appeal to the full PERC board, Metro argued that its changes to operation of the commuter pool justified abolition of any bargaining unit represented by Local 17. PERC rejected the argument and affirmed the Executive Director's decision. Metro petitioned for judicial review. The Superior Court consolidated Metro's petition with the union's pending civil action. On November 17, 1987, the court affirmed PERC's decision in the unit clarification matter and ruled that Metro had acted in bad faith by refusing to recognize and bargain with Local 17. It ordered Metro to recognize Local 17 as the exclusive bargaining representative of the commuter pool clerical employees and awarded attorney fees to Local 17. In October 1989, the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion.*fn2

After the Superior Court announced its decision on November 17, 1987, Metro petitioned PERC to terminate Metro's relationship with Local 17 on the ground that the work formerly assigned to Local 17 members had been

transferred to other Metro employees. PERC effectively denied this petition when it ruled on the union's stillpending unfair labor practice complaint. The PERC hearing examiner issued his order on January 19, 1988, holding that by unilaterally transferring unit work to nonunit employees and changing wages, hours and working conditions, and by refusing to recognize or bargain with Local 17, Metro had committed unfair labor practices. He also held that Metro had continuously asserted frivolous defenses to avoid its bargaining obligations.

As a remedy, PERC directed Metro to (1) restore its commuter pool operation to the status quo as of August 4, 1987; (2) make all five employees whole for any difference in wages and benefits actually paid and those called for by the last collective bargaining agreement; (3) reimburse Local 17 for its attorney fees and costs; (4) bargain with Local 17 in good faith; and (5) submit to "interest arbitration" if the parties were unable to agree on a contract. The Superior Court affirmed PERC's order.

This appeal presents two legal issues:*fn3 Did PERC exceed its authority by (1) ordering Metro to restore the commuter pool program to the status quo as of August 4, 1987, and by (2) ordering Metro to submit any issues unresolved by collective ...


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