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Petties v. Dist. of Columbia

April 21, 2006

NIKITA PETTIES, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

On April 7, 2006, the Court issued an Order granting the Transportation Administrator's Request for a Determination of his Authority to Enter into Collective Bargaining Agreements and into Contracts and ordering, inter alia, that under the terms of the Consent Order entered in this case on June 25, 2003 (the "Consent Order"), the Transportation Administrator has sole authority to negotiate new and renegotiate existing Collective Bargaining Agreements on behalf of the Division of Transportation. This Opinion explains the reasoning underlying that Order.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The June 25, 2003 Consent Order

This class action lawsuit was brought in part to rectify the failure of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") to fulfill their obligations under federal law to provide adequate transportation services to special education students. Defendants' failure to make significant progress towards meeting these obligations after the start of this litigation, as well as their inability to comply with various interim Orders of the Court, led to the Court's appointment (with the consent of the parties) of an Administrator for DCPS' special education transportation on August 7, 2000. This Administrator was a DCPS employee who reported directly to the Superintendent of Schools. For the next two years, the Administrator tried without success to execute various interim plans designed (at the direction of the Court) to help bring special education transportation into compliance with federal law and ultimately to facilitate resolution of this litigation.

Based on the continuing failure to improve the transportation function under the leadership of a DCPS Administrator who reported to the Superintendent, on January 28, 2003, plaintiffs filed a Motion to Place the Transportation System into Receivership. Defendants vigorously objected to plaintiffs' request, and the issue was heavily litigated. Argument on the motion, including the presentation of testimony by live witnesses, was scheduled and then postponed. Ultimately, rather than proceed with oral argument and submit the plaintiffs' motion for the Court's consideration, defendants agreed to the appointment of an independent Transportation Administrator to "manage, supervise and assume responsibility for" the transportation operations of DCPS. The parties filed a proposed Consent Order implementing their agreement, and plaintiffs withdrew their motion to appoint a receiver. On June 25, 2003, the Court approved the Consent Order and appointed David Gilmore, the individual the parties had agreed upon, as the Transportation Administrator for DCPS special education ("TA").

The TA assumed leadership of the Division of Transportation of DCPS ("DOT"), and over the next two-and-a-half years significant progress has been made towards achieving compliance with defendants' obligations. Controversies have arisen between the TA and the District of Columbia Public Schools, but the parties involved generally have been able to resolve these conflicts without the need for final adjudication by the Court.*fn1

On December 28, 2005, however, the TA filed a request with the Court for a determination of his authority under the June 25, 2003 Consent Order to enter into collective bargaining agreements and contracts. The TA's motion asked the Court to: (1) declare invalid under the Consent Order a November 16, 2005, resolution passed by the D.C. Board of Education ("BOE") disapproving a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") entered into by the TA and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 1959 ("AFSCME"); (2) declare invalid under the Consent Order another November 16, 2005, BOE resolution approving a Memorandum of Agreement between DCPS and the Teamsters Union Local 639 regarding an as-yet-unexecuted CBA; (3) declare that the TA has sole authority under the Consent Order to negotiate CBAs on behalf of DOT employees; and (4) declare that the TA has sole authority under the Consent Order to negotiate contracts for the procurement of real estate, other property, equipment and services for the DOT, without the need for approval by the Superintendent or the BOE.

Defendants opposed the TA's motion, while plaintiffs' class counsel filed a memorandum in support of the motion. Defendants' opposition raised issues about the TA's conduct and his relationship with DCPS and with the Unions going well beyond the issues raised in the TA's motion. Plaintiffs and the TA replied to defendants' opposition, and defendants filed a surreply. The two unions whose respective CBAs are at issue here, AFSCME and the Teamsters, sought and were granted leave to file briefs amicus curiae.

Argument was heard on the TA's motion on March 17, 2006. Counsel for the TA, the parties, and the unions presented argument, as did the TA himself. On April 7, 2006, the Court issued an Order granting the TA's motion.

B. Division Of Transportation Labor Relations

The primary issue raised by the Transportation Administrator, and argued in Court, is the scope and extent of the TA's authority under the Consent Order to enter into binding collective bargaining agreements with unions representing DOT employees.*fn2 The DOT has about 1500 employees, a substantial majority of whom historically have been part-time workers compensated at an hourly rate. Part-time DOT employees were (and are) represented in labor negotiations by AFSCME; full-time employees were represented by the Teamsters. In early 2005 the TA decided that the DOT could achieve greater efficiencies by eliminating full-time driver and bus attendant positions in favor of part-time positions. See Request of Transportation Administrator for Determination of his Authority to Enter into Collective Bargaining Agreements and into Contracts ("TA Mot.") at 28. To implement this policy, the TA in May 2005 proposed a reduction in force ("RIF") of all such full-time positions, while offering to transfer the affected full-time employees to analogous part-time positions. See Affidavit of Thomas Ratliss, Att. to Amicus Curiae Memorandum of Teamsters Local Union No. 639 in Response to the Request of Transportation Administrator for Determination of his Authority to Enter into Collective Bargaining Agreements and into Contracts ("Teamsters Amicus Brief") ¶ 9(a).

The RIF encountered significant resistance from the Teamsters and the full-time DOT employees they represented, and the Teamsters filed an Unfair Labor Practices Complaint against the TA before the Public Employment Relations Board in March 2005. On June 16, 2005, the TA, Superintendent Clifford B. Janey, and the Teamsters entered into a Memorandum of Understanding canceling the RIF, withdrawing the unfair labor practices complaint, reclassifying (in title only) full-time drivers and attendants as "senior bus operators" and "senior attendants", and stating that the Teamsters would continue to represent at least 109 bus operators and attendants. See June 16, 2005 Memorandum of Understanding, Ex. C to Teamsters Amicus Brief.

In mid-2005, the TA and representatives of the Superintendent engaged in coordinated negotiations with AFSCME regarding a new CBA for AFSCME-represented DOT employees. According to defendants, in late summer of 2005 the TA "abandoned the collaborative process" and continued negotiations with AFSCME, but without DCPS involvement. See Defendants' Response to Request of Transportation Administrator for Determination of His Authority to Enter into Collective Bargaining Agreements and into Contracts ("Defs' Opp.") at 17-18. The TA reached a tentative agreement with AFSCME, and on September 15, 2005, he presented the proposed CBA to the Superintendent, stating that the CBA would be implemented by September 30, 2005. See TA Mot. at 6; Defs' Opp. at 19. Among the terms of the CBA were a wage increase for AFSCME-represented employees that outpaced the wage increases under CBAs covering other DCPS employees, as well as (and, in the TA's opinion, more significantly) performance-based ...


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