Minot School Committee v. MLRB and Minot Education Assoc., No. AP-97-52, 
affirming Minot Education Assoc. v. Minot School Committee No. 96-27.  
Law Court affirmed in part, modified in part 1998 ME 211, Aug. 14, 1998.

STATE OF MAINE                                      SUPERIOR COURT
                                                    CIVIL ACTION
KENNEBEC, SS.                                       DOCKET NO. AP-97-52



     v.                                            OPINION AND ORDER



     This matter is before the court on the Minot School Committee's appeal
from a decision of the Maine Labor Relations Board.  That decision determined
that the Minot School Committee had engaged in a prohibited labor practice by
not bargaining in good faith and ordered certain remedies.

     On appeal, the Minot School Committee contends that the Board erred in:

     (1)  vacating an interest arbitration award of the Maine Board of
Arbitration and Conciliation,

     (2)  determining that there had been bad faith bargaining before all
steps to resolve an impasse had been exhausted,

     (3)  infringing on school committee members' First Amendment rights by
criticizing school committee members' actions in petitioning for reconsidera-
tion of a town meeting vote, and

     (4)  finding bad faith bargaining without support of sufficient evidence.



     The record before the Maine Labor Relations Board fully supports the
Board findings that the Minot School Committee did not negotiate in good
faith.  In support of its findings, the Board cited actions of members of the
Minot School Committee in petitioning the Minot town meeting to withdraw an
appropriation increase previously adopted to support implementation of a
collective bargaining agreement with enhanced compensation for teachers.
This citation of the actions of the members of the Minot School Committee was
viewed as demonstrating their bad faith bargaining posture.  Such a citation
of things that committee members have done and said is hardly an infringement
of their First Amendment rights.  After all, a determination of bad faith
bargaining is in essence an evaluation of what bargainers do and say.  The
fact that school committee members publicly undertook efforts to frustrate
achievement of a collective bargaining agreement is certainly relevant to
this determination.  It is no infringement of the committee members' First
Amendment rights.

     In the course of the collective bargaining activities between the Minot
School Committee and the Minot Education Association, a prohibited practice
complaint was filed after the Minot School Committee failed to adopt, or even
negotiate in good faith on, a factfinding report and recommendations by an
impartial panel.  26 M.R.S.A.  965(3).

     Following the filing of the prohibited practice complaint, the dispute
went to arbitration before the Maine Board of Arbitration and Conciliation.
The arbitration


panel then issued a decision whose effect was to govern certain contract
language provisions and make advisory recommendations regarding salaries and
health insurance -- the two major issues in contention.

     Pursuant to 26 M.R.S.A.  965(4), arbitration panels' decisions on issues
such as salaries and insurance are advisory and not binding on the parties.

     The school committee, determining that negotiations had failed,
implemented the arbitration panel's recommendations on salaries and insurance
which were consistent with the school committee's original offer to the Minot
Education Association.

     The Maine Labor Relations Board decision purports to vacate the decision
of the interest arbitration panel.  What the decision really vacates, however,
are the panel determinations on salary and insurance which were advisory, not

     As the Minot School Committee points out, decisions of interest arbitra-
tion panels of the Maine Board of Arbitration and Conciliation are final,
subject only to review by the Superior Court.  26 M.R.S.A.  965(4) and 972.
Thus, they argue that the action of the Maine Labor Relations Board purporting
to vacate the decision of the arbitration panel was beyond the Maine Labor
Relations Board's authority.  The school committee would be correct if what
the Maine Labor Relations Board had really done had been to vacate the board
decision.  Such collateral attack would be improper.  However, the Maine Labor
Relations Board did not vacate the arbitration panel's mandatory decision.
It only vacated the school committee's unilateral action


in implementing the nonbinding advice given by the arbitration panel.  While
such action was perhaps a poor choice of words by the MLRB, it was not an
improper exercise of its authority.  The only purportedly binding action which
the MLRB's decision vacated was the unilateral action of the Minot School
Committee implementing its own last offer, recommended as nonbinding advice
to the parties by the arbitration panel.  This action, attempting to return
the parties to the status quo before the prohibited labor practice occurred,
was not reversible error.

     Looking at the facts as found by the Maine Labor Relations Board and the
history of the case, there also can be no question that, in the circumstances
of this case, the Maine Labor Relations Board could have legitimately found
that there was a bona fide impasse on the critical issues of salary and
insurance which were central to the negotiations.  Therefore, the MLRB's order
in no way is violative of the standards set forth in Mountain Valley Education
Association v. Maine School Administrative District No. 43, 655 A.2d 348 (Me.
1995).  Here, the bad faith negotiations occurred before arbitration.  After
arbitration, the impasse rather evidently continued as the school committee
unilaterally imposed its last offer on the Minot Education Association.  There
was no error in the MLRB's finding on this point.  Their findings of lack of
good faith bargaining and prohibited labor practice are fully supported by the


     Therefore, the court ORDERS:

          1.  Appeal DENIED.
          2.  Decision of the Maine Labor Relations Board AFFIRMED.

Dated: December 16, 1997               /s/___________________________________
                                       Donald G. Alexander
                                       Justice, Superior Court