Bargaining Law Prevails Over Local Residency Requirement

Rank-and-file Pittsburgh police officers are represented by Lodge 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police. A provision in Lodge 1’s contract with the City provides that if the Pennsylvania State Legislature enacted legislation related to residency for “police officers in cities of the second class” (which includes Pittsburgh), the parties could reopen the contract to bargain over residency. The reopener clause included the right to seek binding arbitration if agreement could not be reached.

When the contract was signed, a state civil service law required officers in second class cities to be residents of the city. However, the State’s General Assembly repealed the residency mandate on October 24, 2012, replacing it with language that a “city of the second class may require a police officer to become a bona fide resident as a condition of employment.”

In light of the change in the law, the parties met to bargain the residency issue. An arbitration panel was convened, and in the meantime, the Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution to place a referendum on the upcoming general election ballot asking the voters whether the City’s home rule charter should be amended to require all City employees and officials, including police and fire personnel, to maintain their domicile within the City. Voters approved the home rule charter amendment on November 5, 2013.

March 14, 2014, an arbitration panel ruled that the City-only residency requirement would immediately discontinue and be replaced with the following provision: “Officers shall be required to reside within a twenty-five (25) air-mile radius from the City-County Building.” The City challenged the arbitration panel’s decision in court, arguing that the panel had no jurisdiction to make a ruling on the issue of residency.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court disagreed, and upheld the panel’s decisions. The Court noted that it had held in the past that “residency, as a legitimate condition of employment is within the scope of collective bargaining. The Pennsylvania Constitution provides that home rule charters and amendments thereto are subservient to the limitations imposed by the General Assembly. Because Act 111 (the State’s collective bargaining law for police and fire) is a uniform statute applicable throughout the Commonwealth, the FOP maintains the home rule charter amendment that removes residency as a subject of arbitration is unenforceable.

“We agree with the FOP that the provision of authority to a municipality to take action with regard to a bargainable subject does not give the municipality the ability to place those subjects out of the reach of an interest arbitration panel.

“With the enactment of Act 111 in 1968, the General Assembly provided that police officers and firefighters have the right to bargain collectively with their public employers concerning the terms and conditions of their employment. To ensure that home rule municipalities would not abrogate this right, Act 111 specifically provides that the act is applicable to every political subdivision in the Commonwealth, regardless of its adoption of a home rule charter.

“The home rule charter provision requiring residency is at odds with an act of statewide application. As there is a patent inconsistency between Act 111, which provides for bargaining over residency, and the home rule charter provision that removes residency as a subject of bargaining, the home rule charter provision violates the law.

“Accordingly, the order of the trial court affirming the arbitration award directing that officers shall be required to reside within a twenty-five mile radius from the City-County Building is reinstated.”

City of Pittsburgh v. Fraternal Order of Police, 2017 WL 2229859 (Pa. 2017).