Inserting New Sentence Into Contract Draft Is Unfair Labor Practice

On March 17, 2014, representatives of the Newark Police Superior Officers’ Association met with Mayor Luis Quintana and other members of the City’s negotiating team. John Chrystal, the Association’s president, and Dave Giordano, the City’s lead negotiator, presented the terms of the successor agreement to the Mayor. The two reviewed the proposed contract “carefully and slowly” and “reiterated several times” the changes in the contract. The Mayor and Chrystal then “stood up, shook each other’s hand and said, ‘We have a deal!’”

On the following day, March 18, 2014, the parties again gathered for the purpose of signing an agreement that precisely memorialized the agreed-upon terms. A representative of the City – Corporation Counsel Ana Pereira – unilaterally inserted an additional sentence into the two-page document: “In addition, any terms and conditions not set forth in the January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2012 collective bargaining agreement or this memorandum of agreement are null and void.”

Chrystal immediately protested, and Pereira grabbed the Mayor’s right arm and stated, “Mr. Mayor, I had to put this in here to protect you.” Chrystal rejoined: “We didn’t agree to this. Maybe I was at a different meeting yesterday.”

An administrative law judge for New Jersey’s Public Employment Relations Commission found that the City’s conduct was an unfair labor practice. The ALJ held that New Jersey’s bargaining law “makes it an unfair practice for an employer, its representatives or agents not to sign a negotiated agreement. In order to determine if an agreement was achieved, the trier of fact must try to discover the intent of the parties. Interpretative devices include primarily expressions in writing, such as a memorandum of agreement. The writings in this matter – two unsigned, dated collective negotiations ‘proposals,’ one without the disputed waiver, the other with it – corroborate the Association’s case.

“In the absence of a (signed) writing, I must determine if the parties reached a meeting of the minds. The record demonstrates that the two principal representatives of both parties – Mayor Quintana and SOA President Chrystal – reached an agreement on all terms for a successor collective negotiations agreement. On March 18, the City negotiated in bad faith by unilaterally inserting a contested sentence that was not collectively negotiated into the unsigned agreement; and refused to reduce the agreed-upon terms to writing and sign such an agreement. I find that these actions violated the collective bargaining law.”

By way of remedy, the ALJ ordered the Mayor to sign the draft bargaining agreement (without the disputed sentence), and for the agreement to be presented to the City Council for ratification.

City of Newark, 42 NJPER ¶ 69 (N.J. PERC ALJ 2015).