Detroit Fire Fighters Ass'n, Local 344, Intern. Ass'n of Fire Fighters v. City of Detroit

Decision Date24 June 1980
Docket NumberDocket No. 60473,No. 3,3
Citation105 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3386,408 Mich. 663,293 N.W.2d 278
PartiesDETROIT FIRE FIGHTERS ASSOCIATION, LOCAL 344, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS, a Voluntary Unincorporated Association, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF DETROIT, a Michigan Municipal Corporation, Defendant-Appellee. Calendar 408 Mich. 663, 293 N.W.2d 278, 105 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3386
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Marston, Sachs, Nunn, Kates, Kadushin & O'Hare, P. C. by Theodore Sachs, Detroit, for DFFA, plaintiff-appellant.

Roger E. Craig, Corp. Counsel, George G. Matish, Deputy Corp. Counsel, Anna Diggs-Taylor, Frank W. Jackson, Asst. Corp. Counsels, Detroit, Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., Jon M. DeHorn, Asst. Atty. Gen., Detroit, for defendant-appellee.

RYAN, Justice.

We granted leave in this case limited to one issue:

"Whether the Michigan Employment Relations Commission may, when presented with allegations of unfair labor practices, defer hearing of those charges until after an arbitration award has been made pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, where the subject matter of the alleged unfair labor practices is arguably covered by the collective bargaining agreement in question." 1

At the heart of this issue is whether our state Legislature, in enacting the Public Employment Relations Act 2 (PERA), intended to authorize the Michigan Employment Relations Commission 3 (MERC) to defer in its resolution of statutory unfair labor practice 4 charges to the contract law determinations of a private arbitrator reached in an informal and recordless setting.

A review of the statutory scheme for adjudication of unfair labor practice charges in the public sector, and related statutes, leads us to the conclusion that the Legislature did not intend such significant deferral to private arbitration of public sector statutory grievance disputes as would occur pursuant to MERC's decision and order in this case.

Accordingly, we hold that MERC's order deferring its processes in this case pending the outcome of private arbitration should be reversed, and remand this matter to MERC for plenary consideration of the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to the statutorily provided means.


We agree generally with the exposition of the facts that is contained in Part I of Justice Williams' opinion. However, we find it necessary to focus greater attention upon the administrative decisions and orders which compose the record in this case. The question that we are asked in this case must, of course, be decided within the boundaries of, and with reference to, the concrete record from which the issue arises. 5

Justice Williams perceives the issue to be: "(T)he question remains whether MERC, like the NLRB pursuant to NLRA, § 10, may exercise discretionary deferral authority pursuant to the procedural outline of PERA, § 16 subject to proper post-award review. We answer this inquiry in the affirmative." Williams, J., pp. 24-25 (Emphasis on "proper" added).

A review of the decisions and orders below discloses that MERC has very plainly declared that it will apply Spielberg post-award review in this case, 6 in accordance with its established policy of applying a combined Collyer-Spielberg doctrine in all such deferral cases. Collyer Insulated Wire, 192 NLRB 837; 77 LRRM 1931 (1971); Spielberg Mfg. Co., 112 NLRB 1080; 36 LRRM 1152 (1955).

We must decide then, on the record presented, whether MERC's order implementing its established policy of Collyer deferral subject to Spielberg post-award review comports with the specific and clearly expressed procedural requirements of PERA as discussed hereinafter.


While in several respects PERA is "patterned after" the National Labor Relations Act 7 (NLRA), it nevertheless contains some important provisions which are without parallel in the Federal act. Among the significant differences are these:

(1) PERA's prohibition of strikes by public employees, M.C.L. § 423.202; M.S.A. § 17.455(2);

(2) PERA's directive that "(a)ny proceeding" relating to statutory unfair labor practice charges "shall be conducted pursuant to chapter 4 of (the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act)", M.C.L. § 423.216(a); M.S.A. § 17.455(16)(a); and

(3) PERA's requirement that MERC make findings of fact in resolving unfair practices complaints, and that MERC's decisions be reviewable as a matter of right in the Court of Appeals under the competent, material, and substantial evidence standard, 8 M.C.L. §§ 423.216(d), 423.216(e); M.S.A. §§ 17.455(16) (d), 17.455(16)(e).

Against the background of these specific and deliberate provisions, we are asked to find a legislative intent to permit virtually complete delegation of statutory unfair labor practice issues to a private arbitrator acting in an informal and recordless setting. The foregoing emphasis on "complete delegation" derives indisputably from a review of the instant record which establishes that MERC would, absent our disapproval, employ its version of Collyer-Spielberg deferral in this case. 9

Under MERC's version of Collyer-Spielberg, as long as the arbitrator's contract-law decision indicates resolution of the statutory unfair labor practice charge in a manner "not repugnant" to PERA, MERC would do no more than adopt the arbitrator's conjectured resolution of the statutory charges as its "decision". There would be no compliance, by the arbitrator or MERC, with the administrative procedures act, no record for appellate purposes would be available, and MERC's "decision" would seemingly never be based on competent, substantial, and material evidence, all contrary to PERA.

Further, if this case is any indication, the supposed celerity of Collyer-Spielberg deferral is subject to doubt. 10 MERC's decision and order for Collyer-Spielberg deferral in this case was entered on April 4, 1977. The decision to defer requires analysis and determination of the applicability of the Collyer criteria. Such a decision is itself appealable and, in this instance, is here under review over three years after entry.

Moreover, in this case, Justice Williams finds that even under the Collyer-Spielberg doctrine, MERC has improperly attempted to defer to private arbitration of the Association's refusal to furnish relevant information charge. The Commission's error in this regard requires, under Justice Williams' analysis, a bifurcation of the Association's unfair labor practice complaint, with part being remanded to MERC for resolution according to PERA, and part to private arbitration under the Collyer-Spielberg policy.

Thus, in the present case, we are asked to attribute to the Legislature an intent, in enacting PERA, not only to authorize MERC to discretionally defer to private arbitration of public sector statutory unfair labor practice charges under a Collyer-Spielberg doctrine, but also an intent to approve bifurcated proceedings attended with obvious delay and inconvenience. We are unable, in light of the specific and deliberate provisions of PERA discussed above, to declare the existence of such a legislative intent. Moreover, for reasons to be developed hereinafter, we find that the concerns which prompted the NLRB to narrowly adopt the Collyer doctrine in the Federal sphere are conspicuously absent in our state's public employee labor relations sphere.


The Collyer deferral doctrine, which is thoroughly discussed in our brother's opinion, had its origin in the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) resolution of a dilemma presented by two expressed, and potentially conflicting, Congressional policies. The first of these statutory policies is that of the NLRA's that the NLRB should have exclusive jurisdiction to prevent unfair labor practices (in the private sector). The second statutory policy is that of the Labor Management Relations Act 11 (LMRA), which favors the fullest use of collective bargaining and the arbitral process (to promote voluntary resolution of private sector labor disputes). The deferral policy adopted in Collyer is the result, then, of the NLRB's effort to resolve the dilemma presented by opposing expressions of Congressional intent. Certainly, the NLRB's Collyer decision was not an attempt by the NLRB to substitute its judgment respecting how labor disputes should be resolved in place of Congress' judgment, as the latter is stated in the NLRA and LMRA. See Collyer Insulated Wire, supra. An analysis of PERA and related Michigan labor relations statutes reveals to us that no comparable dilemma has been imposed upon MERC or this Court by our Legislature.


We agree with Justice Williams that our Legislature "has manifested (a) preference in the private sector " for the voluntary resolution of contractual labor disputes through private arbitration. (Emphasis supplied). Indeed, the title to the Labor Mediation Act 12 includes in its enumeration of purposes the following: "to provide for the mediation and arbitration of labor disputes". 1939 P.A. 176 (Emphasis supplied).

In contrast, the title to PERA contains no reference to a purpose of providing for arbitration under that act:

"AN ACT to prohibit strikes by certain public employees; to provide review from disciplinary action with respect thereto; to provide for the mediation of grievances and the holding of elections; to declare and protect the rights and privileges of public employees; and to prescribe means of enforcement and penalties for the violation of the provisions of this act." 1947 P.A. 336, as amended.

When the Legislature has intended to provide for arbitration of public employee collective bargaining disputes, as in the case of the Compulsory Arbitration of Labor Disputes in Police and Fire Departments Act 13 (P.A. 312), it has spoken plainly:

"AN ACT to provide for compulsory arbitration of labor disputes in municipal police and fire departments; to define such public departments; to provide for the selection of members of...

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