Carl E. Hostler
Michael F. Niggemyer
Hostler & Segal
Charleston, West Virginia
Counsel for Appellants
Counsel for Appellant
United Steelworkers of America
Fred S. Holroyd
Holroyd & Yost
Charleston, West Virginia
Counsel for Appellee
JUSTICE WORKMAN delivered the Opinion of the Court.
MCHUGH, C. J., dissents and reserves the right to file a dissenting
West Virginia Code § 8-27-21 (1991) does not provide employees
of a mass transit authority with protection of collective
bargaining rights if the collective bargaining rights were not in
place at the time the mass transit authority became responsible for
the operation of the mass transit system.
This case is before the Court upon the appeal of E. L. Kirkpatrick, Jr., and similarly interested individual employees for the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority (hereinafter referred to as MOVTA) and the United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC (hereinafter referred to as the Steelworkers) pursuant to a July 1, 1991, final order of the Circuit Court of Wood County which denied the appellants' petition for declaratory judgment. The appellants' contend that 1) the lower court erred in failing to rule that West Virginia Code § 8-27-1 to -27 (1991), known as the West Virginia Urban Mass Transportation Authority Act, and specifically West Virginia Code § 8-27-21 provides a statutory requirement for collective bargaining rights on behalf of the non-supervisory drivers and mechanics employed by the appellee, MOVTA, or in the alternative, 2) the lower court erred in failing to find that the non-supervisory drivers and mechanics employed by the appellee are entitled to collective bargaining rights based upon the West Virginia Urban Mass Transportation Authority Act and consistent with the equal protection clauses of the Constitutions of the United States and West Virginia.See footnote 1 Based upon a review of the record, the arguments of the parties and all other matters
submitted before this Court, we find no error was committed by the
circuit court and accordingly affirm.
The facts of this case are not disputed by the parties
involved. In June 1990, the appellants, employees of the MOVTA
began attempting to unionize the non-supervisory drivers and
mechanics of the MOVTA. A majority of the MOVTA non-supervisory
drivers and mechanics have signed authorization cards requesting
that the Steelworkers represent them in collective bargaining
matters. There has never been a collective bargaining agreement in
effect between the appellee and any labor organization.
On July 8, 1990, the Steelworkers requested that the MOVTA
grant it the exclusive right to represent the non-supervisory
drivers and mechanics in matters of collective bargaining. The
MOVTA, however, has refused to recognize the union as the
Consequently, on August 24, 1990, the appellants filed an
action in the Circuit Court of Wood County seeking a declaration of
their collective bargaining rights. The circuit court's denial of
the appellants' petition for declaratory judgment is the basis of
the present appeal.
The main issue before this Court is whether West Virginia Code § 8-27-21 affords the appellants the right to unionize and enter
into a collective bargaining agreement. The appellants maintain
that West Virginia Code § 8-27-21 provides them with collective
bargaining rights. The appellee, however, asserts that a union
cannot be forced upon a public employer absent a statutory
requirement. Further, the appellee contends that West Virginia
Code § 8-27-21 only applies to existing public systems which fall
under the West Virginia Urban Mass Transportation Authority Act
that also have an existing collective bargaining agreement or
In order to resolve this issue, it is necessary to examine the
relevant statutory provisions. West Virginia Code § 8-27-4
mandates that when an urban mass transportation authority such as
the MOVTA is created, it "shall constitute a public corporation
. . . ." Moreover, West Virginia Code § 8-27-21 provides, in pertinent part, that
[w]henever any authority acquires any
existing system pursuant to the provisions of
this article, the employees of such system
shall be protected in the following manner:
. . . .
(c) The rights, privileges and benefits
of the employees under existing collective
bargaining agreements shall not be affected
and the owning authority shall assume the
duties and obligations of the acquired system
under any such agreement;
(d) Collective bargaining rights shall be
continued with respect to employees of any
acquired system; . . . .
This Court has previously held that a union cannot force
itself upon a public employer absent a statutory requirement
mandating that the public employer recognize the union. See City
of Fairmont v. Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, AFL-CIO, 166 W. Va. 1, 283 S.E.2d 589 (1980). Specifically, in
syllabus point 2 of City of Fairmont we stated that "it is clear
that a public employer is not required to recognize or bargain with
a public employee association or union in the absence of a
statutory requirement." Id. at 1, 283 S.E.2d at 589.
It is evident from West Virginia Code § 8-27-4 that the MOVTA
is a public employer and therefore, not required to recognize the
appellants' union unless there is some statutory requirement to do
so. Thus, the only question which remains is whether West Virginia
Code § 8-27-21 provides that statutory requirement.See footnote 2
It is clear that West Virginia Code § 8-27-21 applies when the
following conditions are met: 1) an existing system is acquired by
an authority, and 2) the existing system had previously entered
into a collective bargaining agreement. Simply stated, West
Virginia Code § 8-27-21 does not provide employees of a mass
transit authority with protection of collective bargaining rights
if the collective bargaining rights were not in place at the time
the mass transit authority became responsible for the operation of
the mass transit system.
In the present case, there was no acquisition of an existing
system, there was no established union and there were no collective
bargaining rights in place. Consequently, we find that no error
was committed by the lower court.
Based on the foregoing opinion, the decision of the Circuit
Court of Wood County is hereby affirmed.
Footnote: 1Based upon our conclusion that West Virginia Code § 8-27-21 does not provide the appellants with collective bargaining rights, we find the appellants' equal protection claim which is based upon that statute to be unmeritorious. See Frasher v. West Virginia Bd. of Law Examiners, 185 W. Va. 725, 408 S.E.2d 675 (1991); Israel ex rel. Israel v. West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Comm'n, 182 W. Va. 454, 388 S.E.2d 480 (1989).
Footnote: 2The appellants also maintain that the National Labor Relations Act and West Virginia Code § 21-1A-1 to -8 (1989) (entitled the Labor-Management Relations Act for the Private Sector) prospectively guarantees collective bargaining rights to employees of any acquired system even though the employees have not previously chosen to exercise their rights by means of forming a unit and entering into a collective bargaining agreement with their prior employer. The lower court found that West Virginia Code § 21-1A-1 to -8 was intended by the legislature "to apply to the private sector not to the public sector of which the 'MOVTA' is most assuredly a member." Moreover, West Virginia Code § 21-1A-2(a)(2) specifically excludes "the State of West Virginia or any political subdivision or agency thereof." See City of Fairmont, 166 W. Va. at 15, 283 S.E.2d at 597 ("There is no question that W. Va. Code, 21-1A-1 et seq., is limited to private sector labor disputes.") We agree with the lower court's decision concerning the applicability of this statute and accordingly find that the appellants' argument is without merit.