PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RELATIONS BOARDNOTE: Efforts to recreate PERB during its Sunset Review in 2016 and 2017 were unsuccessful. PERB was terminated effective July 1, 2017.
A Brief History of PERB
The Firefighters and Policemen’s Arbitration Act was enacted in 1971, as § 548.1 through 548.14. It was repealed in the 1971, re-codified and simultaneously replaced with the Fire and Police Arbitration Act, as 11 O.S. 51-101 et seq.
The early years of the PERB saw a good deal of activity in the courts as affected parties on both sides tried to establish the parameters of the PERB’s authority.
On Jan. 18, 1972, Finis Smith, president pro tem of the Oklahoma Senate, sought an attorney general’s opinion on whether the FPAA takes precedence over any city charter with which it is in any manner in conflict. The Opinion, 72-112, signed by Larry Derryberry and Odie Nance, was in the affirmative.
The original intent of the legislature appeared to be that the PERB, like the NLRB in the private sector, would have the authority to adjudicate unfair labor practices. The City of Midwest City v. Cravens in Supreme Court Decision 47,552 in 1975, affirmed the validity of the FPAA and its authority over the "home-rule" city charters, but enjoined the PERB from handling unfair labor practice complaints; the language the legislature had used, according to the decision, conferred on the board legislative powers which it (the Legislature) alone could exercise.
Another issue hotly debated was the makeup of the bargaining unit. The District Court of Tulsa County, in its decision July 2, 1979, I. L. Oliver vs. City of Tulsa (and Tulsa Fire Chiefs, intervenor) C 74-61, affirmed the PERB’s responsibility for determining the bargaining units, and upheld the PERB’s inclusion of district chiefs. Since then the bargaining unit, on certification petitions, has consistently been "all permanent, paid members of the [_____] Department, excluding only the Chief and one designated Administrative Assistant." Probationary employees were ruled ineligible to vote and not properly members of the bargaining unit Feb. 12, 1987, in PERB Case 12269 P, City of Pryor. That case became the "prior Pryor" case in November 1992, when, in the Oklahoma City police unit clarification petition 12303 UC, the Board ruled that probationary employees indeed are "permanent" and properly members of the bargaining unit and eligible to vote in certification petitions. That position was further extended to non-CLEET certified probationary officers in the City of Okmulgee 12331 RM case in August 1995.
In August of 1998, in PERB Case # 00358, City of Tulsa, the PERB appeared to take a step back from full membership for probationary employees; the case was appealed and the PERB’s decision was upheld. In January 2000, the board, in case 00364, FOP v. City or Ardmore, ruled, in a split decision, that there exists a public policy in favor of probationary employees, and the city did not need to process grievances with probationary employees. That decision also was upheld in district court and has been taken to the Supreme Court; Supreme Court Case # 95131 in the Court of Civil Appeals.
There was an attempt in the early years to apply the act to all municipal employees. However, it was successfully and certainly not unreasonably argued in court (the same MWC v. Cravens decision) that if it had really been their intent to apply the act to all municipal employees the legislature could surely have found and used a different name than the "Fire and Police" Arbitration Act.
The PERB was unfunded for many years, and was financed from the chairs’ pocket as a civic duty. Consequently, storage of records was not uniform and some files have been lost. The first meeting that we have minutes for was on November 22, 1972, and then we skip to 1977. The first real action that we have any records for is the Teamsters vs. Fraternal Order of Police election in Oklahoma City in 1975; we have the record for that election and know that the FOP won. There was certainly some activity prior to that time, including a bargaining agent election in the Oklahoma City Fire Department, but we have no records of it. Early records of certification elections begin with two elections in 1977, in Warr Acres and Yukon.