More than 3.5 years after being unjustly terminated by the Town of Winthrop, former police Union President Ferruccio Romeo may finally be receiving justice. Thanks to Attorney Patrick Bryant, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected Winthrop's last-ditch effort to derail an arbitration decision ordering his reinstatement. The Town now owes Romeo 3.5 years of lost wages, details and overtime, and other benefits he missed.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case ruling that public sector employees cannot be required to pay an agency fee to a public sector union. However, the decision does not impact the rights of a public sector union to act as the exclusive bargaining representative of all employees in the bargaining unit OR the requirement for the union to fairly represent all employees in the bargaining unit.
Attorney Tod Cochran represented UFCW Local 791 in the Union's successful challenge to a new Shaw's attendance policy imposed employees at the Methuen warehouse. For years, employees who had perfect attendance for 60 days received a benefit or "free pass" for their next violation. Shaw's changed that policy, a change upheld by a different arbitrator. This change specifically stated that after 60 days of perfect attendance, the employee's oldest violation is removed from their personnel record.
For the past year, the Town of Oak Bluffs, including its Town Manager and Fire Chief*, have waged a vicious anti-union campaign to retaliate against the Fire Fighters/EMTs organized to join the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). In November, the Department of Labor Relations, which administers state collective bargaining law, issued a complaint itemizing 11 counts of Unfair Labor Practices by the Town, and then another complaint with two more counts.
Most collective bargaining agreements provide that an arbitrator's resolution of a grievance is "final and binding." That means the parties accept the decision, even if they think it wrong, illogical or contradicted by the facts. Many Massachusetts public employers disregard that language when confronted with an arbitration decision they dislike.
The 24-Hour Shift/42-hour work week is the norm for fire departments in Massachusetts, much as the 4&2/37.5-hour work week is for police departments. But for years, the Town of Seekonk refused to even consider the schedule worked by fire crews all across the Commonwealth. That all changed when Attorney Leah Barrault, assisted by Attorney Mark Macchi, persuaded an arbitration panel including PFFM District Vice President Matt Reddy, that a 24-hour shift is merited, can boost morale, safety and fatigue recovery. All these benefits can be achieved without additional cost to the Town.
A neutral arbitration panel issued a historic decision that requires Town of Chelmsford to increase staffing on fire calls recently at one of its five fire stations. Attorney Leah Barrault represented Chelmsford Fire Fighters, Local 1839 IAFF at the hearing, and introduced evidence demonstrating the safety risk posed to residents and firefighters by the Town's practice on responding to fire calls. Arbitration awards that increase fire station staffing are few and far between.
In order to better serve Pyle Rome's large and growing base of union clients throughout New England and to provide more complete representation to unions and their employee members, Pyle Rome Attorney Jill Ryan recently obtained her license to practice law in Connecticut. Attorney Ryan will continue to focus her practice exclusively on the rights of workers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and across New England. Attorney Ryan was sworn in to practice at the Connecticut Supreme Court on April 30, 2018.
On March 29, 2018, the Hampden County Retirement Board rejected the Town of Longmeadow's effort to involuntarily retire a firefighter in a cowardly attempt to avoid the collective bargaining agreement’s just cause requirement for discharge. Pyle Rome partner Jim Hykel represented the employee.
Attorney Patrick Bryant persuaded a neutral arbitrator to cut eight-shift discipline in half for one Seekonk fire fighter and to reduce it to a reprimand for another fire fighter.