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Wing v. City of Edwardsville

Court of Appeals of Kansas

December 19, 2014

ROBERT S. WING, STEVEN LONG, WILLIAM P. YOUNG, and JOHN J. SIMMA, as Representatives of a Class Consisting of the Members of International Association of Fire Fighters, Local No. 64, Appellees,
v.
THE CITY OF EDWARDSVILLE, KANSAS, and MICHAEL WEBB, Appellants

Page 608

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 609

Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; DANIEL A. DUNCAN, judge.

SYLLABUS

BY THE COURT

Under K.S.A. 75-4321(c), a city that chooses to opt out of the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act cannot do so at the end of the budget year in progress when it votes to opt out. Instead, it must wait until the end of the next complete budget year to do so.

Carl F. Gallagher and Robert J. Wonnell, of McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P.A., of Kansas City, for appellants.

Scott L. Brown, of Blake & Uhlig, P.A., of Kansas City, for appellees.

Before POWELL, P.J., LEBEN, J., and HEBERT, S.J.

OPINION

Page 610

Leben, J.

The City of Edwardsville, Kansas, opted into the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act in 1999. Doing so gave the City's employees a specific right to negotiate with their employers over conditions of employment. See Department of Admin. v. Public Employees Relations Bd. of the Kan. Dep't of Human Resources, 257 Kan. 275, 292, 894 P.2d 777 (1995).

In August 2013, the City voted to opt out of the Act, which is allowed under K.S.A 75-4321(c). The statute provides that a public employer covered by the Act may vote to opt out but that the vote will not take effect until " the termination of the next complete budget year following such vote." The City considered its vote effective at the end of the 2013 budget year and in January 2014 unilaterally imposed new employment conditions on local fire-department employees. The union-member employees obtained a temporary injunction ordering the City to comply with its obligations under the Act, and the City has appealed the order granting the injunction.

The City's appeal is not well taken as the employees' claim meets all of the standard tests for granting a temporary injunction. See Downtown Bar and Grill v. State, 294 Kan. 188, 191, 273 P.3d 709 (2012). The employees were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim under the clear language of K.S.A 75-4321(c), which says the City could not stop following the Act until the next complete budget year following the vote--the 2014 budget year--had ended. In addition, the court had substantial evidence that the employees would suffer irreparable injury if the City stopped following the Act, that the threatened injury outweighed whatever damage the proposed injunction might cause, and that the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. An injunction was also the appropriate remedy in this case because damages would have been speculative and inadequate compensation for the continued loss of bargaining rights. We therefore affirm the district court's grant of a temporary injunction.

Factual and Procedural Background

Edwardsville opted into the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act by enacting Resolution No. 1999-20 on October 25, 1999. On August 26, 2013, the City voted to opt out of the Act under K.S.A. 75-4321(c), which provides that an opt-out does not take effect until the end " of the next complete budget year" after the vote to opt out:

" Once an election has been made to bring the public employer under the provisions of this act it continues in effect unless rescinded by a majority vote of all members of the governing body. No vote to rescind shall take effect until the termination of the next complete budget year following such vote."

Page 611

The City continued to follow the Act for just over 4 months after its opt-out vote, until the end of its 2013 budget year (December 31, 2013).

In January 2014, the City stopped recognizing the bargaining representatives for the Edwardsville Fire Department, Local No. 64 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Until that time, the union had been the exclusive bargaining agent for employees at the rank of captain or lower. The employee members of the union filed a petition in the Wyandotte County District Court asking the court to enjoin the City from violating the Act and alleging that the vote to rescind was to take effect January 1, 2015, not January 1, 2014. The employees obtained a Temporary Restraining Order ordering the City to " comply with its obligations under [the Act], K.S.A. 75-4321, et seq." In support of its motion for a temporary restraining order, the employees had attached an affidavit from Robert Wing, the president of the union, stating that the City's refusal to negotiate with the union caused the employees irreparable harm--namely, changes to wages and other conditions of employment.

The City moved to set aside the temporary restraining order on January 21, 2014. In opposing the City's motion, the employees provided the court with copies of letters from the City to the employees. The letters, which took effect January 5, 2014, set out the compensation rates for working as an active captain or active driver as well as incentive-pay guidelines and leave benefits. Those terms had not been negotiated with the union.

At a hearing on the motion to set aside the temporary restraining order, the employees moved orally for a temporary injunction to prohibit the City from disregarding its bargaining obligations under the Act. The district court granted a temporary injunction and informed the City that it was prohibited from decertifying the union and was required to meet its obligations under the Act. The court's written journal entry provided:

" 1. Plaintiff's oral motion for temporary injunction is granted and the Defendants shall comply with its obligations under [the Act], K.S.A. § 75-4321 as stated in the Temporary Restraining Order.
" 2. The Court finds that the Plaintiff is likely to prevail on the merits.
" 3. The Court finds that irreparable harm will happen if the injunction ...

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