Court Tosses Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Fire-Police Union Lawsuits

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Lawsuits filed by unions representing Pittsburgh firefighters and police were dismissed by the Commonwealth Court.

The unions claimed the state board overseeing the city's attempt at financial recovery did not have the authority to mandate changes in drug testing, seniority policy and other practices not directly related to city spending.

The unions filed suit over the summer, claiming the oversight board deprived workers the right to seek fair compensation by arbitrarily cutting pay and making staffing changes. Union attorneys argued that the Act 47 law contradicts existing state law that guarantees public employees the right to bargain for fair pay.

In an opinion written by President Judge James Gardner Colins, the Commonwealth Court ruled that both laws were written by the state Legislature, and that Act 47 was written by lawmakers in response to existing legislation.

``The pivotal language (of) Act 47 makes clear the legislative intent to empower communities to address financial distress by limiting the powers of unions in the bargaining of new contracts,'' Colins wrote.

The court fight over what the Act 47 team can and cannot do may not be over.

``I would say there's a good chance we'll appeal,'' said Joshua Bloom, an attorney for the city's fire union.