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County of Morris v. Morris Council No. 6

July 21, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF COUNTY OF MORRIS, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT,
v.
MORRIS COUNCIL NO. 6, NJCSA, IFPTE, AFL-CIO, CHARGING PARTY-RESPONDENT.
IN THE MATTER OF COUNTY OF MORRIS, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT,
v.
COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL 1040, AFL-CIO, CHARGING PARTY-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Public Employee Relations Commission, Docket Nos. CO-H-2000-74 and CO-H-2002-39.

Before Judges Stern, Lefelt and Payne.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stern, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued April 27, 2004

In these appeals, consolidated for purposes of this opinion, the County of Morris appeals from orders of the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) based on conclusions that the County committed an unfair labor practice by declining to disclose employee home addresses to the Morris Council No. 6 (NJCSA, IFPTE - AFL/CIO) and to the Communications Workers of America (CWA), when those employees were members of the respective"collective bargaining" or"collective negotiation" units.*fn2 In both cases the County was ordered to"[c]ease and desist from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed to them by [the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act, N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 et seq.] in particular by refusing to provide [each union] with the names and home addresses of all employees in its negotiating unit" and from"[r]efusing to negotiate in good faith" with each union by refusing to provide the list. The County was ordered to provide a list of home addresses of all employees within the negotiations unit. The County was also ordered to post signs as directed by the Commission indicating compliance with the order.

On both appeals the County argues that (1)"mandatory disclosure of records containing home addresses would unduly infringe upon the County's constitutional authority to reasonably regulate access to its property," (2)"PERC committed legal error in its decision below in that it ignored United States Supreme Court precedent, ignored New Jersey Supreme Court precedent, and failed to give adequate consideration to the individual's privacy right to maintain the confidentiality and to control the dissemination of his or her home address," and (3)"PERC's finding that the County has refused to negotiate in good faith lacks any basis in the record evidence." In the Council 6 appeal, the County also argues that PERC relied upon improper and inadmissible evidence and improperly concluded that prosecutors and employees in juvenile detention offices have a"safety interest in protecting their home addresses."

The County argues that the employees' privacy interests in maintaining the confidentiality of their home addresses, and in determining who may or may not have access,"overrides any alleged interest that a union organization may have in obtaining home addresses without employee consent." It challenges the Commission's decision to the contrary and argues that the Commission was wrong in sustaining the unfair practice charge complaints.

Although we have a sincere concern about the right of unit members to decide for themselves whether they want to have their addresses given to the union, we affirm the orders entered in these cases because the record reflects no suggestion that either union would harass or otherwise annoy members with unwanted mail or disseminate the addresses to any third party. Moreover, nothing in the record suggests that members of the negotiations unit actually object to the request. While there have been numerous cases decided since our unreported opinion affirming PERC's similar holding in 1988, In re Burlington County, 14 NJPER 327 (¶ 19121 1988), aff'd, NJPER Supp. 2d 208 (¶ 183 1989) (App. Div. No. 4698-87T1), none have disapproved of the PERC ruling we sustained therein,*fn3 and the Legislature has not amended the Employer-Employee Relations Act, N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 to -30 ("the Act"), to affect that result.

I.

Council No. 6 represents about 500"white collar and blue collar" county employees in the bargaining unit involved in this case. The union communicates with its members mainly through the County's interoffice mail system. However, according to the union president, there had been perceived"[s]erious problems" with the"confidentiality" of items sent through that system. There were complaints that some outside"mail had been opened and read" before delivery and arrived with a notation written on the envelope that it had been opened by"mistake." The union's monthly newsletter, often containing time-sensitive material, would be delivered through interoffice mail a week or two late.

Telephone communication was ineffective, as the employee sometimes was not available or out of the office. Employees were reluctant to discuss confidential union matters on the phone at work. Monthly union meetings likewise were unsatisfactory vehicles, as giving notice was difficult. An average attendance was about fifteen to twenty members, and the union did not have the e-mail addresses of unit members.

At some time in 1999, the union filed a set of grievances on behalf of employees seeking salary adjustments because of pay inequities. The grievances were resolved by negotiations, and the union asked for their members' home addresses so that it could notify the employees of salary adjustments they would receive and let them know"that the union was working for them." According to its president, the County refused to supply the addresses, but invited the union to draft letters to the affected employees, which letters would be reviewed by the County Administrator and e-mailed to the employees' homes. On August 12, 1999, the union faxed the draft letters to the County Administrator. The union president testified that, to the best of her knowledge, the County Administrator did send the letters to the employees' homes, apparently by regular mail.

By letter dated August 13, 1999, the union wrote the County as follows:

In connection with our statutory duties, please provide us with the names and home addresses of each employee in the unit represented by Morris Council No. 6. Kindly provide us with this information within thirty (30) days of the date of this letter.

By letter dated September 22, 1999, counsel for the County declined to provide the home addresses on the ground that the county was"legally barred" by Executive Order No. 11, issued by Governor Brendan Byrne in 1974, from disclosing personnel records of employees. As an"alternative," counsel noted that"the County is prepared to negotiate allowing Council No. 6 access to the County's internal mail system for the purpose of communicating with bargaining unit members." The union did not respond to or accept this offer.

Among the members of the negotiations unit in question were about thirty juvenile detention officers, whose duties included supervising juveniles committed by a court to a detention center. The unit also included about thirty clerical workers in the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor's office has a rule prohibiting the release of home addresses of its employees because of their involvement in criminal investigations. Another group in the unit consisted of thirty to fifty employees of the county's Department of Human Services, some of whom investigate criminal activity in the provision of county services, and some of whom work with State and law enforcement agencies in connection with domestic violence, child abuse and abuse of the elderly.

II.

The CWA is the majority representative of the County employees assigned to the Office of Temporary Assistance. In the CWA case, the union's request for a list of home addresses was also rejected. In that case, also commenced by the union's unfair practice charge alleging violation of the Act, the parties entered into a Stipulation of Facts. The stipulation included the following:

7. The Parsippany office of the County Office of Temporary Assistance is budgeted for 156 positions. Of these, 135 are positions included in the CWA bargaining unit.

8. The Dover satellite office of the Office of Temporary Assistance is budgeted for seven positions, of which six are ...


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