2017 Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation and PLRB Joint Conference Review

Cory A. Iannacone, Principal, Pillar+Aught, presented at The 2017 Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation and Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board Joint Conference held on March 29, 2017 at The Radisson Hotel Harrisburg, Camp Hill, PA. Cory’s session covered Deferral—the issue of choosing between two forums (the grievance process before an arbitrator or unfair labor practice charge before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board) to address the same issue raised by a union in both a grievance and an unfair labor practice charge.

In true Pillar+Aught form, Cory provided the audience with practical advice in how best to approach such an issue. In counseling clients, Cory explained that he is guided by two principles: 1) getting a favorable result for the client, and 2) the most efficient (i.e. cost effective way) to reach that favorable result. When a discrete legal issue is raised in both a grievance and a ULP, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board is better suited to address the issue, as opposed to an arbitrator, who, in Cory’s experience, is more likely to try to avoid directly addressing the legal issue in reaching a decision, thus leaving the possibility of a second hearing before the PLRB, meaning more time and money for the parties.

Cory went on to provide an example from one of his recent cases involving a county court’s right to hire, fire and supervise its employees as preserved under Section 1620 of the County Code—specifically, the court’s creation of two supervisory probation officer positions. When the union filed both a grievance and ULP over the Court’s actions, Cory called opposing counsel to discuss the case and narrow down the issue to be decided to whether the court’s actions fell under its Section 1620 rights. Cory and opposing counsel agreed to submit the case to the PLRB hearing examiner (as opposed to deferring it to arbitration), and because it was truly a discrete legal issue to be decided, agreed to submit stipulated facts to the PLRB hearing examiner, which avoided the need for a hearing—saving both sides time and money. Ultimately, the ULP was decided in favor of the county and dismissed.

Cory’s practical takeaway advice to the audience: First, when presented with a deferral issue, decide who is better suited to decide it—an arbitrator or the PLRB. Second, pick up the phone and try to address these types of issues with opposing counsel before litigating. In this case, Cory’s client reached a favorable result in the most efficient (cost effective) way possible—without the need for even one hearing.