WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board dismissed the city’s appeal of a decision earlier this year to allow the paramedics to remain in the union representing mostly clerical workers at City Hall.
In its June 19 order, the PLRB affirmed the findings of a hearing examiner who said although the paramedics performed different work, they still had much in common with the other members of Public Service Employees Local 1310 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
The issue goes back to December 2016 when the city filed a Unit Clarification Petition with the PLRB, seeking, among other things, to exclude the chief paramedic and seven paramedics from Local 1310.
After a hearing and filing of briefs the examiner issued a Proposed Order of Dismissal on Jan. 19 that noted there was “an identifiable community of interest” between the paramedics and the rest of the bargaining unit. The examiner listed six commonalities that included being members of the union since at least 1981 and working with another collective bargaining unit, the Wilkes-Barre City Fire Department. In addition, at least 50 percent of the paramedics’ workload is clerical and approximately 75 percent of the union’s members are in clerical positions.
Granted, there are differences in wages, working conditions and other aspects of the job, the examiner said. But “perfect uniformity of conditions of employment” is not required for a community of interest, he added.
The city appealed on Feb. 8 and argued in its March 12 filing with the PLRB that the examiner failed to consider the dissimilarities and distinguish between the paramedics’ and other members’ job functions.
The paramedics do different types of work than the other members of Local 1310, the city argued. They fall under different lines of supervisions, receive different fringe benefits and work different shifts, the city said.
In its review of the city’s appeal the PLRB said it followed the legal standard that “a party seeking to remove positions from a bargaining unit has the burden of establishing that an identifiable community of interest is completely lacking.” Furthermore, the PLRB said it “has long favored broad-based bargaining units” that runs counter to “over-fragmentation” of job classifications.
The PLRB pointed out that “the city is not asserting that the paramedics are legislatively authorized to act as firefighters so as to place them within” the Wilkes-Barre City Firefighters Local 104 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
However, if they are excluded from Local 1310 it would establish a single job classification “and constitute undue fragmentation of the long-established bargaining unit,” the PLRB said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.