This is an appeal from the order
In the instant appeal, a collective bargaining agreement, effective September 1, 1977 through August 26, 1979, was entered into between the Fairview Education Association (FEA) and the Fairview School District. Prior to the expiration of the agreement and while negotiations for a new agreement were in progress, the Fairview School Board at its regular monthly meeting on August 20, 1979, passed a resolution offering to extend the old contract for a period of up to sixty (60) days. The resolution specified that the extension would be under the same terms and conditions then in effect.
On August 23, 1979, unaware of the passage of the School Board's resolution, FEA sent a letter to the Board ". . . requesting an extension of the present contract for a reasonable period of time beyond the present expiration date of August 26, 1979, which would include an extension of all terms of the present contract including, but not limited to, the grievance procedure and fringe benefits."
Although no formal agreement was documented concerning the extension of the contract, the teachers appeared for
On September 13, 1979, a grievance report was filed by FEA on behalf of its members. The report alleged that the extended agreement was violated because the School District failed to move its personnel to an advanced pay step-up based on an additional year of service. A work stoppage commenced on September 14, 1979 and continued until October 22, 1979 when all teachers employed by the District returned to work pursuant to an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County.
On September 16, 1979, several teachers filed token claims for benefits, ostensibly to determine the rights of all teachers within the District. The Employment Security Office denied benefits on the basis that claimants were engaged in a labor dispute, thus rendering them ineligible under Section 402(d) of the Act. A referee affirmed the denial of benefits, but was overturned when the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review held that claimants were not rendered ineligible under that section. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the Board and this appeal followed.
Section 402(d) of the Act provides:
Thus, the dispositive issue in this appeal for purposes of determining eligibility for unemployment benefits is whether the work stoppage by the teachers constituted a "strike" or resulted from a "lockout" by the School District. In the former situation, the teachers would be ineligible for benefits pursuant to Section 402(d), while in the latter situation, the teachers would be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
The standards for determining whether a work stoppage is a result of a lockout or a strike were established in Vrotney Unemployment Compensation Case, 400 Pa. 440, 163 A.2d 91 (1960),
Id., 400 Pa. at 444-45, 163 A.2d at 93-94.
Although generally employed in the context of preliminary injunctions, the definition of the term "status quo" is equally applicable to the instant situation. The status quo has been defined as the last actual, peaceable and lawful noncontested status which preceded the controversy. See, e.g., Valley Forge Historical Society v. Washington Memorial Chapel, 493 Pa. 491, 426 A.2d 1123 (1981); Commonwealth v. Coward, 489 Pa. 327, 414 A.2d 91 (1980); Roberts v. School District of Scranton, 462 Pa. 464, 341 A.2d 475 (1975).
The Commonwealth Court held that the failure of the School District to step up the teachers' salaries based on years of service under the expired agreement, although for the school year in which a new contract was being negotiated, constituted a change in the status quo thus rendering the teachers eligible for unemployment benefits.
The School District argues that its payment to the teachers of the same salary according to the last year of the expired contract, rather than a salary increase by step, did not constitute a change in the status quo. The School District contends that the stepped up salary increases for years of service contained in the salary schedules were bargained for by the District and the union only for the specific years covered by the expired contract and that increases beyond the years covered by the contract were
The essence of appellee-intervenors' argument is that the status quo requires a finding that the expired contract has been constructively extended for an entire extra year and all its salary step ups therefore increased accordingly. To accept this theory would defeat the purpose of interim extensions between the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement, and negotiation and consummation of a new agreement.
While the specific issue of whether the maintenance of the status quo during the extension of an expired collective bargaining agreement requires stepped up salary increases under that agreement has not been addressed by this Court, appellant cites to two cases from other jurisdictions whose rationale we find persuasive.
In M.S.A.D. No. 43 Teachers Assoc. v. M.S.A.D. No. 43 Board of Directors, Me., 432 A.2d 395 (1981) a teachers union and a school district began negotiating in April 1978 over a collective bargaining agreement to succeed the agreement then in force. By August 31, 1978, the day the 1977-78 agreement expired, no new agreement had been reached and negotiations continued into the new school year.
Id. 432 A.2d at 397.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine upheld the Maine Labor Relations Board's conclusion that both parties had committed prohibited labor practices and, citing from the Board's opinion, stated:
Id. (footnote omitted).
Moreover, the Maine Court, in a footnote cited to a New York Court of Appeals case for its status quo rationale concerning salary step increases during the interim period between the expiration of one agreement and consummation of a new agreement:
The underlying rationale for the status quo requirement is that during the interim period between contracts, the employer may continue operations and the employee may continue working, while the parties are free to negotiate on an
We therefore hold that the School District's refusal to pay stepped up salaries did not constitute a disruption of the status quo; that the work stoppage in these cases resulted from a "strike" rather than a "lockout"; and thus section 402(d) disqualified the teachers from receiving unemployment compensation benefits.
Accordingly, the Order of the Commonwealth Court is reversed and the referee's denial of benefits reinstated.
LARSEN, J., files a dissenting opinion.
LARSEN, Justice, dissenting.
On August 23, 1979, the Fairview Education Association requested "an extension of the present contract . . . which would include an extension of all terms of the present contract. . . ." (Emphasis added.) In response, the Board of Education notified the Association that it had passed a resolution extending the contract for a period of time up to sixty days. That resolution provided that the "current teacher contract" would be extended "with the same terms and conditions that are presently in effect."
Nevertheless, the majority has concluded that the payment of stepped-up salary increases beyond the years specified in the expired agreement would "change the existing relationship in the context of the terms and conditions subject to the very negotiations sought to be fostered." at 521.
The status quo in this case — the last actual, peaceable and lawful noncontested status which preceded the controversy
I would hold that teachers working under the extended agreement were entitled to compensation commensurate with their years of service, and that the school district's failure to increase the teachers' salaries to reflect an additional year of service constituted a refusal to maintain the status quo — a lockout — thus entitling the teachers to unemployment compensation benefits. Accordingly, I would affirm the order of the Commonwealth Court.