MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT
Decision: 2018 ME 130
Argued: September 12, 2018
Decided: September 25, 2018
Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, et al.
[¶1] As a result of a serious budget shortfall, the Town of Madison
eliminated its police department and entered into a contract with the Somerset
County Sheriff's Office for the provision of law enforcement services.[fn]1 David
Trask, a member of Madison's former police department, appeals from a
judgment of the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Stokes, J.) affirming a
decision of the Maine Labor Relations Board[fn]2 in favor of the Fraternal Order of
[fn]1 The assessed value of the Madison Paper Industries mill--previously the largest taxpayer in the
Town--dropped from $230 million to $80 million, causing a substantial decrease in tax revenue for
[fn]2 Citing to State of Maine Labor Relations Board, 413 A.2d510, 513 (Me. 1980), and Bangor Water
District v. Maine Labor Relations Board, 427 A.2d 973, 974 n.1 (Me. 1981), the court granted the
Board's unopposed motion to participate as a party, though it did not conclude that the Board was a
necessary or indispensable party. Because neither Trask nor the Union challenged the order
authorizing the Board's participation, we do not review the court's determination of the Board's
party status. See Estate of Hoch v. Stifel, 2011 ME 24, ¶; 38, 16 A.3d 137. As we indicated in the primary
case cited by the court, however, we do not intend that the Board "should routinely elect to take an
[end of page 1]
Police (the Union) on Trask's prohibited practice complaint alleging a breach of
the duty of fair representation by the Union in its negotiations with the Town.
We affirm the judgment.
[¶2] A union's duty of fair representaiton is not specifically described in
the applicable statutes, nor does a breach of that duty sound in negligence. See
26 M.R.S.§§ 964(2)(A), 868(5)(C) (2017); Brown v. Me. State Emps. Ass'n, 1997
ME 24, ¶ 7, 690 A.2d 956. Rather, the duty originated in the 1940s in federal
jurisprudence through "a series of cases involving alleged racial discrimination
by unions certified as exclusive bargaining representatives under the Railway
Labor Act and was soon extended to unions certified under the [National Labor
Relations Act]." Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 177 (1967) (citations omitted). The
Supreme Court has explained a union's responsibility as follows: "the exclusive
agent's statutory authority to represent all members of a designated unit
includes a statutory obligation to serve the interests of all members without
hostility or discrimination toward any, to exercise its discretion with complete
good faith and honesty, and to avoid arbitrary conduct." Air Line Pilots Ass'n,
[fn 2, cont'd.]
active part in every review proceeding" but instead encourage its involvement when "the presence
of the Board insures that the board public interest, which may differ from the interests of the
particular public employer, will be adequately represented." State v. Me. Labor Relations Bd., 413
A.2d at 513.
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Int'l v. O'Neill, 499 U.S. 65, 76 (1991) (quotation marks omitted); see Brown,
1997 Me 24, ¶ 7, 690 A.2d 956.
[¶3] Here, Trask does not argue that the Union failed to act in good faith
or that it acted discriminatorily toward him. He contends only that the Union
acted arbitrarily in handling collective bargaining over the impact of the Town
of Madison's elimintion of its police department.
[¶4] Trask had the burden of proving the prohibited practice by a
preponderance of the evidence. See 26 M.R.S. § 968(5)(C). To meet his burden
and demonstrate that the Union's conduct was arbitrary, Trask had to prove
that, "in light of the factual and legal landscape at the time of the union's actions,
the union's behavior [wa]s so far outside a wide range of reasonableness . . . as
to be irrational." Langley v. Me. State Emps. Ass'n, SEIU Local 1989, 202 ME 32,
¶ 9, 791 A.2d 100 (quotation marks omitted.).
[¶5] The Board determined that Trask failed to meet his burden of proof,
and we will affirm its decision unless the record "compels a contrary conclusion
to the exclusion of any other inference." Kelley v. Me. Pub. Emps. Ret. Sys., 2009
ME 27, ¶ 16, 967 A.2d 676 (quotation marks omitted).
[¶6] The facts found by the Board were supported by substantial
evidence in the administrative record. See City of Bangor v. Me. Labor Relations
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Bd., 658 A.2d 669, 671 (Me. 1995). In the context of the severe municipal
budget crisis experienced by the Town of Madison, both the Town and the
Union were making decisions and negotiating in unchartered territory, The
record before us does not compel a determination that the actions of the Union
and its representatives were so outside a wide range of reasonableness as to be
irrational. See Kelley, 2009 ME 27, ¶ 16, 967 A.2d 676; Langley, 2002 ME 32,
¶ 9, 791 A.2d 100.
The entry is:
Robert E. Sandy, Jr., Esq. (orally), Sherman & Sandy, Waterville, for appellant
Lisa Copenhaver, Esq. (orally, Maine Labor Relations Board, Augusta, for
appellee Maine Labor Relations Board
Benjamin K. Grant, Esq. (orally), McTeague Higbee, Topsham, for appellee
Fraternal Order of Police
Kennebec County Superior Court docket number AP-2017-29
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