Associated COLT Staff of the University of Maine System v. Board of Trustees
of the University of Maine System, MLRB No. 93-21, rev'd, No. CV-93-362
(Me. Super. Ct., Ken. Cty., Apr. 13, 1994), Board decision reversed, 
Board of Trustees v. Associated COLT Staff and MLRB, 659 A.2d 842(Me. 1995)

STATE OF MAINE                                        SUPERIOR COURT
KENNEBEC, SS.                                           CIVIL ACTION
                                                DOCKET NO. CV-93-362

        Petitioner           )
     v.                      )              OPINION AND ORDER
RELATIONS BOARD,             )
        Respondents          )

     This matter is before the court on the University of Maine
System's appeal of a decision of the Maine Labor Relations Board.
By that decision, the Board required the University to grant wage
increases to staff employees after expiration of a contract which
had included nonuniform step wage increase provisions.

     In reaching its determination, the Board applied the "dynamic
status quo" rule which it had initially adopted in Auburn School
Administrators Association v. Auburn School Committee, No. 91-19
(Me.L.R.B. October 8, 1991), appeals dismissed by stipulation,
Androscoggin County Superior Court, CV-91-459 and 464, April 24,
1992.  This "dynamic status quo" rule superseded a 'static status
quo" rule which the Board had previously adopted and applied to
public employee contracts in Easton Teachers Association v. Easton
School Committee, No. 79-14 (Me.L.R.B. March 13, 1979).

     The static status quo rule adopted in Easton had governed
Maine public employee contracting practices from 1979 until the

1991 decision.  It was in effect when the expired contract with
University employees was negotiated in 1989.

     This case presents the legal question of whether the various
public employee labor relations laws are more appropriately
interpreted as having a "static status quo" or "dynamic status
quo" rule applicable to situations where employees are working
without a contract and expired contracts have included provision
for step wage increases.  Under the "static status quo" rule, once
contracts expire, public employees are paid at the rate they were
paid immediately prior to expiration of the contract until a new
contract is negotiated. Under the "dynamic status quo" rule,
public employees continue to receive wage increases at rates
determined by the Maine Labor Relations Board based on the expired
contracts which had included step increases.  The "dynamic status
quo" rule necessarily requires M.L.R.B. intervention any time, as
with the University contract, that there is uncertainty as to the
timing or rate of additional pay increases calculated according to
the expired contract.  Parties that cannot agree on a contract are
unlikely to agree on interium increases.

     The issue is one of extreme importance to local budget makers
in times of flat funding and required cutbacks in employees and
services due to funding limitations.  The dynamic status quo rule
requires continued increases in public employee wages, perhaps
based on contracts negotiated in good times, in times when
economics for many agencies and school districts are most


In Caribou School Department v. Caribou Teachers Association,
402 A.2d 1279 (Me. 1979), the Law Court held, in a different
context, that the Maine Labor Relations Board exceeded its
authority in imposing upon a school district, against its will,
the duty of paying wage increases, where the school district had
never, directly or indirectly, agreed to pay the increases.  Id. 
at 1285-1286.  This rule was viewed by the Law Court as
consistent with doctrines of national labor relations law which
allow the Labor Board to supervise the procedure of bargaining,
but proscribe any official compulsion over the actual terms of the
contract.  H.K. Porter Co. v. N.L.R.B., 397 U.S. 99, 108, 90 S.Ct.
821, 826 (1970).

     Requiring an employer caught in difficult economic times to
continue to increase wages at rates agreed to when times were
better constitutes exactly such prohibited compulsion over the
actual terms of a contract.

     The University of Maine and its employees agreed to a
contract in 1989 which included certain provisions for nonuniform
increases in wage rates over the term of the contract.  In
effect, they agreed to specific rates of wage increases for a
specific time, and for no longer.  Requiring the University to pay
increases after the contract has expired is requiring the
University to do something they never agreed to do and, in today's
economic times, probably would not or could not agree to do.
Accordingly, the court determines that the action of the Maine
Labor Relations Board in imposing the "dynamic status quo"


rule and requiring the University to continue to give employees
wage increases, at rates the Board calculates were agreed to in
1989, is an improper imposition into the substance of collective
bargaining processes.

     Citing Murphy v. Board of Environmental Protection, 615 A.2d
255, 259 (Me. 1992) the Board argues that the court should accord
"great deference" to its administrative construction of a statute
it enforces.  This doctrine develops from judicial recognition
that administrative agencies have considerable expertise in their
assigned statutes, and their experience is entitled to deference
as unresolved questions under the statute are addressed in the
agency's day-to-day dealings.  Here, however, the Board had an
interpretation which stood for nearly 13 years.  It came to be
relied on by negotiators and public policy planners considering
economic issues in expired contract situations.  Then, without any
apparent motivation from legislative action or judicial
decisionmaking, the established agency interpretation was
radically changed.  Such a change in longstanding policy, based
only on the agency's desire to change, is entitled to considerably
less deference.  After all, if an agency refuses to give deference
to its own longstanding interpretations, why should courts give
its new interpretations much deference at all.


     Therefore, the court ORDERS:

          Appeal SUSTAINED
          The decision of the Maine Labor Relations Board is
          REMANDED to the Maine Labor Relations Board with
     direction to continue to apply to this prohibited labor
     practice complaint the ""static status quo" doctrine as
     it had been applied since Easton Teachers Association v.
     Easton School Committee, supra.

DATED:  April 13, 1994             /s/________________________________
                                   DONALD G. ALEXANDER
                                   JUSTICE, SUPERIOR COURT