September 16, 2019

Direct dealings with members in a negotiating unit


"Direct dealing" involves an employer establishing or attempting to establish a negotiating relationship with one or more unit members to the exclusion of the employees' exclusive bargaining agent.

In Local 650 and the City of Buffalo, 30 PERB 3020, PERB decided that the City of Buffalo had not engaged in "direct dealing," but PERB concluded that the city had unlawfully interfered with an employee's statutory right to representation.

A part-time administrative program aide, [Aide] was initially hired  and scheduled to work from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Her supervisor allowed her some flexibility, but a dispute eventually arose about her hours. The City eventually abolished the Aide's position and terminated her.

PERB found that the record demonstrates that Aide would not have been terminated nor her position abolished had the Local agreed to her starting at 10 a.m. Indeed, PERB's decision reports that the City admitted that Aide was terminated "because [the Local's] proposals on her behalf in negotiations regarding work schedule were 'unacceptable' to the City."

PERB decided that Aide's termination violated §209-a.1(a) of the Civil Service Law [the Taylor Law] regardless of whether her work schedule was a mandatory or non-mandatory subject of negotiations, explaining that the City's action violated Aide's right to have union representation within the meaning of §202 of the Taylor Law.

It seems clear that an employer does not have a legal duty to negotiate with a union if a subject matter proposed for discussion is non-mandatory. But the absence of a legal duty to bargain does not mean that the employer is allowed to take action against an employee because of the nature of  the help extended to that employee by the union. Simply put, PERB held that Buffalo based its action on an impermissible reason.

The City could have taken action against Aide for not complying for its directive regarding her reporting to work. But it could not lawfully terminate her simply because the local had pursued a negotiating position that the City considered impossible.

PERB ordered the City to recreate Aide's former position and reinstate her to it, with back salary and benefits.

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