Another employer has learned, the hard way, that regardless of time and expense, the WPPA will not simply allow any benefit to be rescinded on a whim!
Represented by Staff Attorney Roger Palek and Business Agent Gary Gravesen, the WPPA prevailed in a recent grievance arbitration case against the City of Altoona. Under the police officers’ contract, the City was required to pay the health insurance premiums for “employees” who retired in good standing. The language has been in place for many years but it had been untested. The first time an employee retired under the language, the City took the position that the use of the word “employees” meant that the City only had to pay the premiums for a single “employee only” insurance plan rather than the family plan the employee had at retirement.
The WPPA provided testimony of the negotiating history of the language indicating that it was intended to apply to whatever plan the member had in place when he or she retired. This was confirmed by the former City administrator. In addition, members of other City unions who had identical contract language substantiated the historical implementation of that interpretation. The City had no evidence to rebut any of the testimony and merely offered the opinion of the current city administrator as to how he believed the language should be interpreted. Based on the WPPA’s well-executed case, the arbitrator ruled that the most logical interpretation of the language was that of the union and ordered that this interpretation be consistently applied immediately and in the future.
This was an important case both to the local union and to the individual members who need a concrete understanding of the benefit so that they can properly plan for retirement. The City attempted to make a unilateral and unreasonable interpretation of relatively straight-forward language, but the WPPA prevailed with the help and integrity of the previous City administrator, the cooperation of the members of the other City unions, and the excellent memory of the long-time local negotiator.
The WPPA would like to thank the Altoona Professional Police Association President, Scott Kelly, and negotiator Chuck Wysocky for their invaluable contributions in successfully concluding this matter, which was one more example of the WPPA’s effective ability to fight for its members’ rights.