37th Annual Workshop for Public Sector Labor Relations Specialists

On Saturday May 1st, the Boston Bar Association will be holding its 37th Annual Workshop for Public Sector Labor Relations Specialists at Langdell Hall, Harvard Law School. The program is designed to familiarize lay people and attorneys who specialize in labor relations with current trends in collective bargaining and other issues affecting public employees. This year’s program features newly appointed Secretary of Labor Joanne Goldstein as well as members of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board and the Director of the Division of Labor Relations. A second panel deals with the recent reorganization of the transportation agencies. The conference is co-chaired by Amy Laura Davidson of Sandulli Grace, P. C., Peter J. Berry, of Deutsch, Williams, Brooks, DeRensis & Holland, P. C., and Suffolk University Professor of Law Marc Greenbaum.

Click here for further details and registration form.

Governor Patrick Appoints Amy Laura Davidson Chair Of The Advisory Council To The Division Of Labor Relations

Amy Davidson has been appointed as Chair of the Division of Labor Relations Advisory Council. The Division of Labor Relations is the agency charged with jurisdiction over unfair labor practice cases, arbitrations and mediation and interest arbitration under the Joint Labor Management Committee. Early in her career, Amy worked as a hearing officer for the Labor Relations Commission, the predecessor to the Division of Labor Relations. In 2007, Amy chaired a Mass Bar Association committee that was involved in discussions with the Secretary of Labor which ultimately lead to the reorganization of the agency to the Division of Labor Relations .

The Advisory Council is charged with responsibility for advising the Division of Labor Relations concerning policies and practices that it might implement to better discharge its labor relations duties. It is comprised of thirteen members including five representatives of public sector unions, five representatives of public sector management and three non-affiliated members. The Director of Labor, the Chair of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board and the Director of the Division of Labor Relations will all serve as non-voting members of the Advisory Council.

Amy has been serving as a labor representative on the Advisory Council since 2008 when she was first appointed to that position by the governor. Initially, she participated with other members of the Council in interviews of candidates for appointment to the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board and the Director of the Division of Labor Relations. More recently, Amy has participated in discussions about the revision of regulations governing the Division. On April 21, 2010, Amy was sworn in as Chair of the Council. She will serve in that position for two years.

Read The Appointment letter…

Appeals Court Victory for Retiring Teacher

Sandulli Grace successfully argued before the Appeals Court that a teacher is eligible for creditable service for retirement for service performed out of state so long as that service is in a day school that is under exclusive public control. It does not have to be for a school committee or a board of trustees. In the Weston case, the teacher had taught special needs students in Virginia before the public schools provided special education. Rodney Weston taught in a school in Fairfax Virginia which was under the control of the Department of Health, a public entity. The Teacher’s Retirement System had denied his application to buy back the service credit because the employer was not a school committee or a board of trustees. The Appeals Court found that the MTRS, CRAB and the Superior Court were all wrong in their interpretation of the statute by improperly limiting the service eligible for service credit. The case is Rodney Weston vs. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, 09-P-475 March 18, 2010.

Download The Case…

Mashpee Quinn Suit Update! Judge Denies Town’s Motion To Dismiss Case To Proceed To Ruling On Merits

Earlier this week Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo denied the Town of Mashpee’s motion to dismiss the Quinn bill lawsuit brought by several Mashpee Officers. The Suit contends that the Town violated the law when it reduced Quinn Bill payments to officers based on an anticipated reduction in state funding. After hearing argument, Judge Rufo denied the motion from the bench, an unusual move. The case will now proceed to a decision on the merit.

The suit alleges that under the Quinn Bill, a municipality may NOT reduce Quinn bill benefits, even if the collective bargaining agreement between the municipality and its union would purport to allow a reduction. This is because the Quinn Bill is NOT a statute that parties may amend via bargaining. Allowing a Town to reduce Quinn benefits is the same as allowing it to pay officers below the minimum wage. Even if the contract says it’s permissible, it is not.

“We’re extremely happy that Judge Rufo refused to dismiss the case. The officers will now have their case heard on its merits,” said Sandulli Grace’s Bryan Decker, who argued for the officers. “We’re confident that we will prevail and that the Town will be ordered to pay its officers the full benefit to which they are entitled.”

Even assuming that the case will be successful, educational benefits for officers are not ensured in the future. The legislature already “closed” the program to newly hired officers; and the Governor is pushing further changes that would ALLOW a town to reduce payments if the state short changes the town on reimbursement. “It’s pretty disgraceful, the state’s reduction in Quinn reimbursement is nothing more than a back door local aid cut,” says Decker. “Nonetheless, towns and cities can’t just cut police officers’ pay. That’s outrageous.”