Fort Stewart Schools v. FLRA,
495 U.S. 641 (1990)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Fort Stewart Schools v. FLRA, 495 U.S. 641 (1990)

Fort Stewart Schools v. Federal Labor Relations Authority

No. 89-65

Argued Jan. 10, 1990

Decided May 28, 1990

495 U.S. 641


During collective bargaining, petitioner schools, which are owned and operated by the Army at a military facility, declined to negotiate with respondent Union over proposals relating to a salary increase and fringe benefits. Respondent Federal Labor Relations Authority held that the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS or the Statute) required petitioner to bargain over the proposals. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The Authority did not err in ruling that petitioner was required to bargain over the Union's proposals. Pp. 495 U. S. 644-657.

(a) The Authority's conclusion that the Union's proposals related to "conditions of employment" within the meaning of the Statute, over which covered employers are required to bargain, is based upon a permissible construction and is entitled to deference absent an unambiguous expression of congressional intent to the contrary. Cf. 467 U. S. S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, 467 U. S. 842-843. The Statute defines "conditions of employment" as matters "affecting working conditions," but excludes matters (1) relating to prohibited partisan political activities; (2) relating to the classification of positions; or (3) specifically provided for by federal statute. Although, in isolation, the term "working conditions" might be read to connote only the physical conditions under which an employee labors, the structure of the statutory definition tends to negate that meaning, which would render the first two exceptions unnecessary. There is no merit to petitioner's contention that, although the term "conditions of employment" may generally include any matter insisted upon as a prerequisite to accepting employment, it does not include wages. Wages are the quintessential prerequisite to accepting employment. Nor is the inclusion in the National Labor Relations Act and the Postal Reorganization Act of specific references to "wages" relevant here; those statutes deal with labor-management relations in entirely different spheres, and nothing in the FSLMRS indicates that it is to be read in pari materia with them. Statements in the legislative history suggesting that the FSLMRS duty to bargain does not extend to wage and fringe benefit proposals are also irrelevant, in light of indications that these statements were based on

Page 495 U. S. 642

the erroneous belief that the wages and benefits of all Executive Branch employees are fixed by law and are therefore eliminated from the "conditions of employment" definition by the third statutory exception. Pp. 495 U. S. 644-650.

(b) The Union's proposals are not exempted from the statutory duty to bargain by an FSLMRS provision specifying that "nothing in this chapter shall affect the authority of any [agency] management official . . . to determine the [agency's] budget." Under the Authority's precedents interpreting this provision, petitioner had the burden of proving that the Union's proposals would result in significant and unavoidable increases in petitioner's costs. Since petitioner placed nothing in the record to document its total costs or even its current total teachers' salaries, the Authority reasonably determined that it could not conclude from an increase in one budget item of indeterminate amount whether petitioner's costs as a whole would be significantly and unavoidably increased. Pp. 495 U. S. 650-653.

(c) Title 20 U.S.C. § 241 -- which directs agencies establishing schools on federally owned property to limit expenditures to "an amount per pupil which will not exceed the per pupil cost of free public education provided [by] comparable communities in the State" -- and an implementing Army regulation -- which requires that federal school salary schedules equal those in the private sector -- do not relieve petitioner of its duty to bargain on the ground that the Union's proposed salary increase would require petitioner to pay its teachers more than employees in local civilian school systems. In rejecting this argument, the Authority relied on an FSLMRS provision requiring, "to the extent not inconsistent with Federal law," bargaining over the subject of an agency regulation "if the Authority has determined . . . that no compelling need . . . exists for the . . . regulation," and on its own implementing regulation declaring that a "compelling need" exists if, among other things, the agency regulation in question implements a statutory mandate that is "essentially nondiscretionary in nature." It cannot be said that the salary equality requirement is "essentially nondiscretionary in nature," since § 241 mandates equivalence only in total per pupil expenditure, not in each separate element of educational cost. Pp. 495 U. S. 653-657.

860 F.2d 396 (CA 11, 1988), affirmed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. MARSHALL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, at p. 495 U. S. 657.

Page 495 U. S. 643

Primary Holding

Federal Labor Relations Authority did not err in ruling that the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS) required petitioner schools, which are owned and operated by Army, to bargain over teacher union's proposals relating to a salary increase and fringe benefits.



  • Antonin Scalia (Author)

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