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Teamsters Local Union No. 676 v. Port Authority

Decided: January 28, 1970.


Wick, J.s.c.


This case is before the court on a motion by Teamsters Local Union No. 676 for instructions concerning a restraining order issued from this court.

In chronological order, the following facts have been presented to the court. On January 13, 1969 the Transport Workers Union of America and its Local No. 234 (henceforth TWU) signed an agreement with the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) providing that PATCO would recognize TWU as the bargaining agent for PATCO's employees. On January 31, 1969 the Teamsters filed a letter petition with the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) seeking to have that agency determine the proper bargaining agent for the PATCO employees.

On March 14, 1969 the Teamsters filed the complaint in this action seeking to enjoin PATCO from complying with its agreement with TWU. After several temporary restraining orders were granted a preliminary injunction issued on April 18, 1969 ordering PATCO not to recognize TWU as negotiating agent of PATCO employees "until such time as the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission has resolved and finally determined all issues regarding the question concerning whether it or any other Labor Organization represents the employees of Defendant in an appropriate negotiating unit." This was regarded as necessary at the time to maintain the status quo until a determination could be made deciding who should be the bargaining agent for the employees.

On February 28, 1969 TWU filed a suit in equity in the Court of Common Pleas, County of Philadelphia, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, captioned John Coyle v. PATCO (No. 7632). On June 5, 1969 Judge Eiseman in that action, to which the Teamsters were a party, issued an order enjoining the Teamsters from

PERC assigned a hearing officer to the dispute and hearings were held on February 12, February 21, 1969 and June 6, 1969. On July 22, 1969 the hearing officer filed his report and recommendations. This report did not make a recommendation as to whether PERC had jurisdiction of the dispute, but decided that if it did, PERC should conduct an election and certify the winner to be the proper bargaining agent of PATCO employees.

On September 23, 1969 PERC issued a decision and direction of election deciding that it had jurisdiction to resolve the dispute and ordered an election to be held. On October 20, 1969 the election was held and the Teamsters were overwhelmingly voted to be the bargaining agent. On November 5, 1969 PERC supplemented its earlier decision and certified the Teamsters as the exclusive representative for the PATCO employees.

On December 5, 1969 the Teamsters brought this motion for instructions on whether to obey the Pennsylvania injunction or N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.3, which obligates them to bargain with PATCO on behalf of PATCO's employees.

The initial question confronting this court is, who has the power or jurisdiction to determine the bargaining agent for PATCO. The Philadelphia court is also faced with this decision. Before it TWU is arguing that under Pennsylvania

law the Common Pleas Court should determine who should represent the employees of a Pennsylvania agency. Before this court the Teamsters argue that PERC, under the laws of New Jersey, has jurisdiction to decide the dispute and this court should enforce its decision.

The whole problem arises because of the unique character of PATCO. PATCO is a corporate subsidiary of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), which is a creature of a compact between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. N.J.S.A. 32:3-1 et seq. and 36 P.S. ยง 3421 et seq. each contain the compact, which establishes DRPA as a "public corporate instrumentality of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey" for certain public purposes which include (N.J.S.A. 32:3-2(j)):

The establishment, maintenance, rehabilitation, construction and operation of a rapid transit system for the transportation of passengers, express, mail, and baggage, or any of them, between points in New Jersey within the Port District and within a 35-mile radius of the city of Camden, New Jersey, and points within the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and intermediate points. Such system may be established by utilizing existing rapid transit systems, railroad facilities, highways and bridges within the territory involved and by the construction or provision of new facilities where deemed necessary, and may be established either directly by purchase, lease or contract, or by lease or agreement with any other public or private body or corporation, or in any other manner.

The provision under which PATCO was created is N.J.S.A. 32:3-13.42(7)(b):

To effectuate any of its authorized purposes either directly or indirectly by or through wholly owned subsidiary corporations. Any such subsidiary corporation shall be a public corporate instrumentality of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey for such purposes and shall be deemed to be exercising an essential governmental function in effectuating such purposes. Any such subsidiary corporation and any of its property, functions and activities shall have such of the privileges, immunities, tax and other exemptions of the commission and of the commission's property, functions and activities, and such of the rights, powers and duties of the commission, as the commission shall determine.

The issue is what law ought to be applied under the compact to the present dispute -- New Jersey's or Pennsylvania's, neither or both. The compact itself is silent on the point and no decision has been handed down on it.

The Public Employees Relation Commission was created by the New Jersey Legislature in 1968 with the power "to resolve questions concerning representation of public employees." * * * N.J.S.A. 34:13A-6(d). N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3(d) defines a public employee as "any person holding a position, by appointment or contract, or employment in the service of a public employer, * * *." A public employer is defined in N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3(c) to mean "the State of New Jersey, or the several counties and municipalities thereof, or any other political subdivision of the State, or a school district, or any special district, or any authority, commission, or board, or any branch or agency of the public service."

When the Delaware River Joint Commission was established in 1931 the enabling act's preamble read: "It is highly desirable that there be a single agency of both states empowered to further the ...

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