In the Matter of: Southeast Area Transit District and Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1209
A municipal employer can violate the Municipal Employee Relations Act, if the past practice is to grant union presidents leave to attend to union business, and the employer, in response to budget constraints, unilaterally changes the past practice and denies the union president's requests for leave. In February and August 2011, Jaroslaw Pizunski, a transit bus driver who had been elected as union president, requested permission, weeks in advance, to attend training for new union presidents. The transit district denied Pizunski's requests because, in response to a reduction in state funds, the transit district had eliminated its spare driver positions and lacked sufficient coverage. Pizunski's other requests for leave to take care of union business also were denied, because the transit district lacked coverage. The union filed a complaint, alleging that the transit district violated the Municipal Employee Relations Act, because it denied the union president's requests to attend union training sessions. The union claimed that the transit district unilaterally changed the past practice of granting the union president's requests for leave, to participate in union functions. The transit district objected it consistently granted union business leave only if sufficient drivers were available to cover the union president when the president was away. The union proves a prima facie case, if it establishes a past practice that concerns a mandatory topic, and a unilateral change in that practice. The Board of Labor Relations found that the transit district, a municipal employer, violated the Municipal Employee Relations Act, because the transit district denied Pizunski's requests to be released from work to attend to union-related business. Union business leave is a mandatory topic of collective bargaining. "Prior to February 11, 2011," wrote the board, "no request by a Union president for business leave had been denied due to lack of replacement coverage for at least thirteen years." The board ordered the transit district to permit the union president permission to take leave to attend to union business.