Appeal from the Hamilton County Circuit Court, The Honorable Judith S. Proffitt, Judge, Cause No. C84-583
Shields, P.j., Buchanan, J., Concurs. Staton, J., Concurs.
Blackford County Schools (Blackford) appeals a summary judgment entered in favor of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB); Raymond L. Green, Cleon F. Foust, Jr. and Suzanne F. Trautman in their official capacities as members of the IEERB; and the intervenor, Blackford County Teachers Association (Association).
The Indiana Educational Employment Relations Board is an administrative agency of the State of Indiana established by Section 9 of the Indiana Certificated Educational Employee Bargaining Act (Act).[Footnote 1] Blackford is a public school corporation operating elementary and secondary schools in Blackford County and is a "school employer" as that term is defined by Section 2(c) of the Act.[Footnote 2] Association is the "exclusive representative" of the school employees of Blackford as that term is defined by Section 2(1) of the Act.[Footnote 3] Blackford sought a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction to prevent an allegedly illegal fact-finding procedure from occurring during teacher collective bargaining. More specifically, Blackford sought to enjoin IEERB fact-finders from hearing evidence on subjects statutorily excluded from the fact-finding procedure upon the objection of the school employer.
The trial court granted the Association's motion for summary judgment on two theories -- lack of subject matter jurisdiction and mootness. First, the trial court found that Blackford had "failed to invoke the subject matter jurisdiction of this Court over the issuance [sic] of an advisory opinion issued by IEERB or its fact-finder pursuant to I.C. 20-7.5-1-13." Record at 322. Second, the trial court found the case to be moot because: (1) a contract was signed prior to the fact-finding hearing in question,[Footnote 4] (2) all prior school years had passed with a contract signed, and (3) Blackford could have availed itself of an administrative remedy, namely, to refuse to engage in fact-finding and thus subject itself to an unfair labor practice charge filed by BCTA wherein all jurisdictional issues could be resolved.
Did the trial court err in denying Blackford declaratory and injunctive relief.
Collective bargaining between school employers and their "certificated" employees is the subject of Indiana's Certificated Educational Employee Bargaining Act. The purposes of the Act include promoting harmony between school employers and their employees and preventing "material interference with the normal public school educational process." IC 20-7.5-1-1. Accordingly, the Act prohibits teacher strikes, IC 20-7.5-1-14, and replaces the strike weapon with a system intended to ensure fair collective bargaining, respecting the rights of both school employers and employees to have their disputes aired and negotiated.
Under this scheme, a school employer is required to bargain in good faith with the school employee association's exclusive representative regarding certain "mandatory" subjects. IC 20-7.5-1-2(n). The exclusive list of mandatory subjects (Section 4) are: "salary, wages, hours, and salary and wage-related fringe benefits," (IC 20-7.5-1-4) and obligations contained in contracts negotiated within the year preceeding adoption of the Act; so-called "grandfathered" items. IC 20-7.5-1-5. The school employer must "discuss," but is not required to bargain collectively, on certain "non-mandatory" (or "permissive") subjects (Section 5), namely:
working conditions, other than those provided in Section 4[20-7.5-1-4]; curriculum development and revision; textbook selection; teaching methods; selection, assignment or promotion of personnel; student discipline; expulsion or supervision of students; pupil-teacher ratio; class size or budget appropriations: Provided, however, that any items included in the 1972-1973 agreements between any employer school corporation and the employee organization shall continue to be bargainable.
The duty to bargain in good faith does not require either party "to agree to a proposal of the other or to make a concession to the other." IC 20-7.5-1-2(n). Thus, if collective bargaining has become futile, either party may declare that an "impasse" has been reached. IC 20-7.5-1-12(b). An impasse may arise over either the substance or scope of the bargainable Section 4 subjects. Impasse could be reached regarding the "scope" of bargaining if, for example, the employer claims that the association is demanding bargaining, rather than Discussion, of Section 5 subjects. Although school employers are obligated to "discuss" Section 5 items, they are not obligated to "be subject to or enter into impasse procedures" regarding these items. IC 20-7.5-1-5.
If an impasse is declared, the IEERB is required to appoint a mediator.[Footnote 5] IC 20-7.5-1-12(b). The mediator holds confidential sessions with the parties "to delineate the problems in bargaining collectively, finding solutions which can reasonably be accepted by both parties and to determine common grounds, if any." IC 20-7.5-1-13(a). If the informal mediation process fails to result in agreement between the parties within a specified time [forty-five (45) days prior to the submission date] IEERB is required to initiate "fact-finding." IC 20-7.5-1-12(d). "The purpose of fact-finding is to give a neutral advisory opinion where the parties are unable by themselves, or through a mediator, to resolve a dispute." IC 20-7.5-1-13(b). A more formalized procedure is involved in fact-finding. The fact-finder:
shall make such investigation and hold such hearings as he deems necessary in connection with any dispute, may restrict his findings to those issues which he determines significant, may use evidence furnished him by the parties, by the board, its staff, or any other state agency. The fact-finder shall make a recommendation as to the settlement of the disputes over which he has jurisdiction. In conducting such hearings and investigations, he shall not be bound by the provisions of IC 1971, 4-22-1; he shall, however, take into consideration the following factors:
(1) Past memoranda of agreements and/or contracts between the parties;
(2) Comparisons of wages and hours of the employees involved, with wages of other employees working for other public agencies and private concerns doing comparable work, giving ...