SERB RULES FAIRBORN UNLAWFULLY
SUSPENDED UNION PRESIDENT
Henry A. Arnett
Livorno and Arnett Co., LPA
1335 Dublin Road, Suite 108-B
Columbus, Ohio 43215
The Ohio State Employment Relations Board has ruled that the City of Fairborn acted unlawfully when it issued a suspension of ten working days to the President of Local 1235 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
In 2006, the City of Fairborn and Beavercreek Township entered into a joint staffing agreement that allowed the Township to provide and staff a medic unit at one of the City’s fire stations. Local 1235, which represented the firefighters in Fairborn, felt that the joint staffing agreement was a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the Local and the City because the fire station was going to be staffed by an outside entity and bargaining unit work was being performed by non-bargaining unit employees. However, the Local agreed to execute a waiver, stating that it would not pursue a grievance on the issue in exchange for the City’s commitment to place a tax levy, seeking additional funds for staffing in the fire department, on the ballot no later than the November, 2008, election.
In August, 2008, the Local learned that the city council had decided not to place a tax levy on the ballot. The Local President (who was a Fairborn Fire Department lieutenant) was instructed by his membership to take whatever steps were necessary to revoke the waiver and enforce the provisions of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement as it related to the joint staffing agreement. The Local President first informed the City that the Local was not extending the waiver and requested that the City terminate the joint staffing agreement. A grievance was also filed by the Local alleging that the City was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement.
On October 24, 2008, the Local President sent a letter to the Beavercreek Township Trustees informing them of the actions taken by the Local and the Local’s position on the joint staffing agreement. This letter was sent to address confusion and rumors that had arisen as to the Local’s position on the joint staffing agreement and also to assure the Trustees that the Local’s position that the joint staffing agreement be discontinued was not because of any action the Township or its firefighters had taken. This letter was sent on the Local’s letterhead and was signed by the Local President as the President.
The City’s response once it learned of the letter was quick. It sent two fire department division chiefs and a deputy sheriff to the Local President’s home to serve a notice of a hearing for disciplinary action, and in a short time the City issued a 10 day suspension to the Local President for allegedly violating the City’s chain of command and misrepresenting the City’s position.
The Local and the President filed unfair labor practices charges with the State Employment Relations Board, alleging that the suspension was based upon the President’s union activities. They were represented in those charges by the law firm of Livorno and Arnett Co., LPA. On January 12, 2010, the Administrative Law Judge for SERB issued her opinion, holding that the Local President was in fact suspended because of his union activities, in violation of Ohio law, and ordering that the suspension be rescinded.
On March 11, 2010, the three members of the Ohio State Employment Relations Board voted to issue a final decision affirming the recommendation of the Administrative Law Judge. The City of Fairborn was ordered to cease and desist from interfering with employees in the exercise of their rights and from discriminating against employees because of their protected activity. The City was also ordered to remove all references of the disciplinary action from the President’s personnel file, provide the Local President with full backpay plus interest, and post a notice informing employees that the City had been found guilty of violating the law.