The question presented by this appeal is res integra in this jurisdiction, viz.: Can a public agency in Alabama bargain with and enter into an enforceable collective agreement with a labor organization concerning the wages, hours, and conditions of employment of its employees in the absence of express constitutional or statutory authorization to do so? Appellant has represented the employees of appellee for some thirty years, during which period a series of twelve collective contracts were executed between the parties. (There is no question of union membership, per se, involved on this appeal.)
The lower court, in a declaratory judgment action, ruled, inter alia, that such a contract was ultra vires and unenforcible and therefore the relief sought by appellant (union) was denied.
This Court has been favored with excellent and exhaustive briefs from both appellant and appellee and also from amicus curiae which present every conceivable facet of arguments, citing numerous cases from other jurisdictions where the question has arisen.
Concededly, appellee, as the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham, is a public agency and its employees are public employees. Water Works Board of City of Birmingham v. Stephens, 262 Ala. 203, 78 So.2d 267; Jackson v. Hubbard, 256 Ala. 114, 53 So.2d 723. See also State ex rel. Richardson v. Morrow, Ala., 162 So.2d 480.
It appears from the cases cited to us in brief, and our research also reveals, that the strongest current of opinion from the highest courts of states where the question has been presented has ruled that a public agency has no legal authority to bargain or contract with a labor union in the absence of express statutory authority. Appellant
The Supreme Court of Florida in Miami Water Works Local No. 654 v. City of Miami, 157 Fla. 445, 26 So.2d 194, 165 A.L.R. 967 (where the Union sought a declaratory judgment that the city might bargain with it) held, and we think correctly so, that the City was under no obligation to bargain with the Union and stated:
The Florida Court of Appeals (1963) in the case of Dade County v. Amalgamated Association of Street Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees of America, 157 So.2d 176, held in part:
The Supreme Court of Colorado in Fellows v. LaTronica, Colo., 377 P.2d 547, held that an action to compel the city to arbitrate a claim for vacation pay for city firemen under a collective agreement should be dismissed because the City had no authority to enter into such a contract with the union in the first instance.
The Maryland Court of Appeals, in Mugford v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 185 Md. 266, 44 A.2d 745, 162 A.L. R. 1101 (affirming the lower court) in an action by a taxpayer to enjoin enforcement of and to have declared invalid a collective agreement between the City and Union, held that the City did not have the power to "delegate its governing power to any agency" and that such a contract was void.
See also Nutter v. City of Santa Monica, 74 Cal.App.2d 292, 168 P.2d 741; City of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Building and Construction Trades Council, 94 Cal.App.2d 36, 210 P.2d 305; City of Springfield v. Clouse, 356 Mo. 1239, 206 S.W.2d 539; City of Alcoa v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 203 Tenn. 12, 308 S.W.2d 476; Weakley County Municipal Electric System v. Vick, 43 Tenn.App. 524, 309 S.W.2d 792; International Longshoremen's Assn., etc. v. Georgia Ports Authority, 217 Ga. 712, 124 S.E.2d 733, cert. den., 370 U.S. 922, 82 S.Ct. 1561, 8 L.Ed.2d 503, all of which are in accord.
The rule stated by the annotator in 31 A.L.R.2d 1142 at page 1170 seems to be the rule of the majority, and supported by well reasoned cases:
The opinions of the Alabama Attorneys General are likewise without conflict to the effect that state, county, and municipal agencies of this State are without legal authority to negotiate or to enter into collective bargaining agreements with labor unions. See Attorney General Reports, April-June, 1941, p. 55; Attorney General Reports, October-December, 1946, p. 19; Id. p. 43; Attorney General Reports, July-September, 1946, p. 36; and especially Attorney General Reports, April-June, 1957, p. 35; and Attorney General Reports, July-September, 1958, p. 38. In the April 10, 1941 opinion of the Attorney General of Alabama, supra, it appears that the President of the County Board of Revenue of Gadsden, Alabama presented an inquiry to the Attorney General as to whether or not said Board of Revenue "may legally enter into a contract or agreement with a labor organization * * * as a bargaining agent for county employees with respect to hours of employment, wages, etc." The opinion of the Attorney General was as follows:
Thus the public agencies of Alabama have long been advised, without conflict, that matters of wages, hours, and conditions of employment never have been, and cannot become, a matter of collective bargaining and contract in the absence of constitutional or statutory authority and of course such administrative rulings having been in force and effect for many years, are highly persuasive authority of the correctness of the rule. State v. Southern Electric Generating Co., 274 Ala. 668, 151 So.2d 216; Haden v. McCarty, 275 Ala. 76, 152 So.2d 141. Such administrative construction is neither binding on the State nor its agencies nor on the court. Therefore, the use of the word "bound" in the last paragraph of the opinion in State v. Southern Electric Generating Co., supra, was not intended to impinge upon the longstanding rule hereinabove adverted to.
On a thorough canvass of the pertinent authorities and a careful study of the entire case, despite the cogent arguments of learned counsel for appellants and amicus curiae, we are constrained to hold that the trial court ruled correctly.
LIVINGSTON, C. J., and MERRILL and HARWOOD, JJ., concur.