Unfair Labor Practice Charge Filed by Row Offices In Pennsylvania

In Troutman v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 735 A.2d 192 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999) the county and union engaged in "reopener" negotiations in July 1994, ultimately resulting in an agreement between the county and the employees of the Berks County row offices. In September the personnel director advised row officers of the objectives, and only Troutman responded; he stated that he wished to retain the right granted under Pennsylvania law to hire, fire and discipline employees. A provision carried over verbatim from prior agreements, section 28.3, required posting of vacancies and filling of positions based on qualifications, including seniority. Various row office positions were filled in a manner inconsistent with section 28.3, and an unfair labor practice charge was filed. The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) in Troutman found sufficient notice and acquiescence by row officers and held that the provision was effective, but the trial court required greater efforts to seek involvement of the row officers and reversed. The Court reviewed the requirement as stated in Ellenbogen, County of Lehigh and Della Vecchia that county commissioners must consult with judges and row officers, and it concluded that the requirement of input from the row officers had been met. The provision had been included verbatim in prior agreements, and row officers were given ample opportunity before the agreement was signed to raise their objections when notified in writing of the objectives. the Court noted that no objections were raised; rather, it perceived one vague comment by Troutman, and it reversed the trial court and reinstated the PLRB decision.