Treating groups in the collective bargaining unit differently does not always constitute to a violation of the union’s duty of fair representation

Treating groups in the collective bargaining unit differently does not always constitute to a violation of the union’s duty of fair representation
Calkins v Police Benevolent Assn. of N.Y. State Troopers, Inc., 55 AD3d 1328

Thomas E. Calkins and five other retired State Troopers were among some 72 retirees rehired as "Special Troopers" on a temporary basis in 2001. They commenced this lawsuit in an effort to recover wage and benefit increases negotiated by the Police Benevolent Association of New York State Troopers [PBA] pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between it and the State of New York

Calkins charged the PBA violated its duty of fair representation as the exclusive bargaining agent for the Special Troopers as a result of the PBA excluding the Special Troopers from expanded duty pay and increases in longevity pay in an effort to obtain a substantial increase in longevity pay for the other State Troopers in the unit represented by the PBA. The Special Troopers’ exclusion was reflected in Memorandum of Agreement signed by the PBA and the State and subsequently ratified by PBA’s membership.

Supreme Court granted the PBA’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the Calkins' action and Calkins appealed.

The Appellate Division commence its review of the appeal by noting that in order “To establish that a bargaining agent breached its duty of fair representation, a plaintiff must show that the bargaining agent's conduct was arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith,” citing Civil Service Bar Assn., Local 237 v City of New York, 64 NY2d 188. To do so, said the court, the complaining party must provide substantial evidence of fraud, deceitful action, or dishonest conduct, or evidence of discrimination that is intentional, severe, and unrelated to legitimate objectives of the collective bargaining representative.

Here, however, the fact that the PBA treated the Special Troopers differently from other State Troopers represented by it in its negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement does not amount to a violation of the duty of fair representation. The court found that the PBA “met its initial burden on the motion by establishing that it undertook ‘a good-faith balancing of the divergent interests of its membership and [chose] to forgo benefits which may be gained for one class of employees in exchange for benefits to other employees.’"

Further, said the Appellate Division, the record demonstrates that the PBA did not misrepresent its negotiating position. A "Contract Update" memorandum sent to its members expressly stated that the Special Troopers were excluded from "all new monetary aspects of the contract."

As the record before it did not demonstrate that the PBA’s conduct was arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith, the Appellate Division sustained the lower court’s granting the PBA’s motion for summary judgment.

The full text of the decision is posted on the Internet at: