799 A.2d 274 (R.I. 2002), 2000-372, State, Dept. of Environmental Management v. State, Labor Relations Bd.

Docket Nº:2000-372-M.P.
Citation:799 A.2d 274
Opinion Judge:Goldberg, Justice.
Party Name:STATE of Rhode Island, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT v. STATE of Rhode Island, LABOR RELATIONS BOARD et al.
Attorney:John Breguet, Esmond, for Plaintiff., Gerard Cobleigh and Margaret Hogan, Warwick, for Defendant., Present: WILLIAMS, C.J., LEDERBERG, BOURCIER, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ.
Judge Panel:Present: WILLIAMS, C.J., LEDERBERG, BOURCIER, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ.
Case Date:June 14, 2002
Court:Supreme Court of Rhode Island
 
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Page 274

799 A.2d 274 (R.I. 2002)

STATE of Rhode Island, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT

v.

STATE of Rhode Island, LABOR RELATIONS BOARD et al.

No. 2000-372-M.P.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 14, 2002.

Page 275

John Breguet, Esmond, for Plaintiff.

Gerard Cobleigh and Margaret Hogan, Warwick, for Defendant.

Present: WILLIAMS, C.J., LEDERBERG, BOURCIER, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ.

OPINION

GOLDBERG, Justice.

This case came before the Court on May 13, 2002, on the petition for certiorari of the State of Rhode Island, Department of Environmental Management (DEM or department) pursuant to G.L.1956 § 42-35-16 of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). DEM is seeking this Court's review of a Superior Court judgment upholding a finding by the State of Rhode Island, Labor Relations Board (Labor Board) that DEM had committed unfair labor practices.

Page 276

For the reasons set forth herein, we grant the petition and quash the judgment of the Superior Court.

Facts and Travel

On July 6, 1994, apparently aware that a job opening for a part-time "principal forester" was about to be posted by DEM, Rhode Island Council 94 AFSCME, AFL-CIO (Council 94 or union), the bargaining unit for DEM employees, filed a grievance with DEM. The grievance asserted that by posting a part-time position, DEM violated the union's collective bargaining agreement (agreement or CBA). The union requested that the posting be lifted and that DEM create an opening for a full-time position. The department denied the grievance on the grounds that a full-time principal forester was not needed, and that money for a full-time position was not available. DEM further responded that the CBA contained no provisions prohibiting the creation of part-time positions. Indeed, DEM concluded that the agreement itself specifically included terms relating to part-time employees. In accordance with the terms of the CBA, Council 94 appealed this determination to the Department of Administration's Office of Labor Relations. The Office of Labor Relations, for substantially the same reasons employed by the department, denied Council 94's grievance.

To pursue the claim further, Council 94 was required to submit the matter to binding arbitration as provided by the CBA. Despite this contract provision and the fact that the union had elected to undertake grievance resolution through the collective bargaining process, Council 94 failed to submit the matter to arbitration. Rather, the union turned to the Labor Board for the same relief and alleged that DEM had committed an unfair labor practice in violation of G.L.1956, chapter 7 of title 28, by posting the job without first negotiating the terms of employment with Council 94, and "violated the collective bargaining agreement."

In December 1994, pursuant to § 28-7-9(b)(5), in an attempt to resolve the matter, the Labor Board conducted an informal hearing between the parties. This effort, however, was unsuccessful, and in February 1997, two years and two months later, the Labor Board issued a formal complaint specifically charging that DEM committed two unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain collectively with union representatives in violation of § 28-7-13(6)...

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