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International Association of Fire Fighters Local Union No. 5058 v. Gillette/Wright/Campbell County Fire Protection Joint Powers Board

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 6, 2018

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 5058, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
GILLETTE/WRIGHT/CAMPBELL COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION JOINT POWERS BOARD, Appellee (Defendant). INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 5067 and JOHN TOBEY, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
TETON COUNTY, WYOMING and TOWN OF JACKSON, WYOMING, Appellees (Defendants).

          Appeals from the District Courts of Campbell and Teton Counties The Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge

          Representing Appellant: David F. Evans and O'Kelley H. Pearson of Hickey & Evans, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming; Sara L. Faulman and Sarah M. Block of Woodley & McGillivary LLP, Washington, DC. Argument by Ms. Faulman.

          Representing Appellee: Joseph E. Hallock and James L. Edwards of Stevens, Edwards, Hallock & Carpenter, P.C., Gillette, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Edwards.

          Representing Appellees: Keith M. Gingery, Teton County Attorney's Office, Jackson, Wyoming, for Appellee Teton County; Audrey P. Cohen-Davis, Town of Jackson, Jackson, Wyoming, for Appellee Town of Jackson. Argument by Mr. Gingery on behalf of Teton County.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [*] , FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.

          FOX, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] This is a consolidated appeal in which the International Association of Fire Fighters Local Union No. 5058 (IAFF Local 5058) and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local Union No. 5067 (IAFF Local 5067) appeal from separate district court decisions governing their attempts to collectively bargain with their respective corporate entities. The district courts in both cases held that the Wyoming Collective Bargaining for Fire Fighters Act's definition of "fire fighters" includes volunteers because they are "paid members of . . . regularly constituted fire department[s]." Consequently, the district courts concluded that IAFF Local 5058 and IAFF Local 5067, which were formed by and consist of only full-time, career fire fighters, were not properly constituted bargaining units under the Act. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] The issue is whether volunteer and part-time (pool) fire fighters in the Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Department and volunteer fire fighters in the Campbell County Fire Department are "fire fighters" as defined by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-101(a), and thus are entitled to be represented in collective bargaining negotiations.

         FACTS

         [¶3] These consolidated appeals concern Wyoming's Collective Bargaining for Fire Fighters Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 27-10-101 through 27-10-109 (LexisNexis 2017) (the Act) and require the interpretation of "fire fighters" as that term is defined in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-101(a)(i). We first outline the collective bargaining process, and then review the relevant facts in each consolidated case.

         A. Collective Bargaining for Fire Fighters in Wyoming

         [¶4] Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 27-10-101 through 27-10-109 establish the process by which fire fighters may form unions to collectively bargain in Wyoming. The term "fire fighters" is defined, "unless the context requires a different interpretation," as "paid members of any regularly constituted fire department in any city, town or county within the state." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-101(a)(i). Fire fighters "have the right to bargain collectively with their respective cities, towns or counties" and have the right "to be represented by a bargaining agent in . . . collective bargaining as to wages, rates of pay, working conditions and all other terms and conditions of employment." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-102.

         [¶5] To exercise their right to collectively bargain, fire fighters must follow the process outlined in the statutes: The fire fighters elect an organization that acts as their exclusive bargaining agent. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-103. The fire fighters' bargaining agent requests a meeting with the corporate authority in writing. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 27-10-104, 109. The corporate authority then has ten days to meet with the bargaining agent. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-104. The parties have 30 days to reach an agreement; after that time, all unresolved issues are submitted to mandatory arbitration. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-105.

         B. Gillette, Wright, and Campbell County Fire Fighters

         [¶6] The City of Gillette, the Town of Wright, and Campbell County formed a Fire Protection Joint Powers Board (the Campbell County Joint Powers Board), which oversees the Campbell County Fire Department (CCFD). CCFD covers 5, 000 square miles and responds to "approximately 2, 000 calls for assistance each year." CCFD employs two categories of fire fighters: full-time, career fire fighters and volunteer fire fighters. Currently there are 23 career fire fighters and 200 volunteer fire fighters in the CCFD.[1]

         [¶7] Full-time, career fire fighters earn between $35, 006.40 and $62, 732.80 per year and are scheduled to work up to 240 hours every 28 days. In 2016, CCFD career fire fighters' total payroll was $1, 370, 916.61. In addition to their salaries, full-time, career fire fighters receive health insurance, dental insurance, flexible benefits plan participation eligibility, basic term-life insurance, supplemental life insurance, long-term disability insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, participation in the Wyoming Retirement System (Paid Firefighter Plan B), vision insurance, deferred compensation, and holiday and sick leave.

         [¶8] Unlike full-time, career fire fighters, CCFD volunteer fire fighters do not have a set schedule and receive no consequences for refusing a shift. They are not eligible for sick or vacation leave. Like their full-time counterparts, however, volunteers are compensated for their efforts. They earn compensation for responding to incidents and attending trainings and meetings. In 2015, CCFD paid volunteers a total of $213, 051.41 for 23, 383.56 hours of work, an average of $9.11 per hour. Volunteer fire fighters also receive periodic physical exams (depending on age, every one, two, or three years), Wyoming workers' compensation coverage, supplemental wage coverage, use of CCFD maintenance shop and exercise facilities, CCFD contribution to and participation in the Volunteer Fire Fighter and EMT Pension Account, and unemployment insurance.

         [¶9] In July 2015, a majority of the CCFD career fire fighters voted to select IAFF Local 5058 as their sole and exclusive bargaining agent pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-103. Full-time, career fire fighters with the rank of Captain or below were eligible to vote for the establishment of IAFF Local 5058. Volunteer fire fighters were not allowed or invited to vote in the election. The IAFF approved the constitution and by-laws of IAFF Local 5058 on September 10, 2015.

         [¶10] On July 22, 2015, Bryan Borgialli, president of IAFF Local 5058, advised the Campbell County Joint Powers Board that "the firefighters of the Campbell County Fire Department have organized as a local union" and that the IAFF had authorized IAFF Local 5058 to act as their representative. After receiving this notice, the Campbell County Joint Powers Board asked the Campbell County Attorney to request an Attorney General's opinion regarding whether the Campbell County Joint Powers Board is a "corporate authority" able to participate in negotiations with IAFF Local 5058, and whether volunteer fire fighters are "paid members of any regularly constituted fire department," who should have been allowed to vote to select a bargaining agent, pursuant to the Wyoming statutes governing collective bargaining for fire fighters. By letter dated September 11, 2015, a copy of which was provided to IAFF Local 5058 President Borgialli, the Campbell County Attorney requested the opinion, and on November 16, 2015, the Wyoming Attorney General's office responded. The Attorney General concluded that the Campbell County Joint Powers Board is the appropriate corporate authority to negotiate with IAFF Local 5058 and that volunteer fire fighters are "paid members" of the CCFD.

         [¶11] On February 18, 2016, pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-104, IAFF Local 5058 submitted written notice to the Campbell County Joint Powers Board, requesting a meeting to collectively bargain. The Campbell County Joint Powers Board responded on February 25, 2016, and, relying upon the Attorney General's opinion, it concluded that it would "not recognize Local Union No. 5058 as the collective bargaining unit for the Campbell County Fire Department because the volunteer firefighters were not included in the election process." IAFF Local 5058 subsequently filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, asking the court to find that IAFF Local 5058 is the bargaining agent for the CCFD fire fighters and that the Campbell County Joint Powers Board is obligated to meet and confer with IAFF Local 5058 for collective bargaining, pursuant to the Act. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the district court held that the volunteers are "paid members," and therefore should have been allowed to participate in the election of the collective bargaining agent. Accordingly, the court ruled IAFF Local 5058 cannot be the ...


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