The PBA has prevailed once again in a legal battle with the Division of State Police over our members’ right to wear union pins. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court has affirmed an earlier decision by the Public Employment Relations Board that the Division of State Police committed an improper employer practice when its chief attorney made a verbal threat that if PBA members wore union pins while supporting other members at court proceedings, they would face disciplinary charges.
In a decision dated January 19, 2006, the Appellate Division ruling stated in part that, “…we find that PERB rationally concluded that the wearing of union insignia under these circumstances is a protected right included within ‘the right to form, join and participate in…any employee organization.’”
The PBA first challenged Division on this issue in late 2002 after the verbal threat was made, and the PBA has won this legal battle every step of the way, including several levels of appeals filed by Division.
The PBA will continue with its mission to defend our members’ rights in all forms and through a variety of means.
To read the full text of the Appellate Division’s decision, click on the icon above or refer to the link below to the web site of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division Third Department. Also below is the Times Union newspaper article, published on January 20, about the PBA’s most recent court win.
Union pins off-duty OK, court rules
State Police officials violated troopers’ rights in barring pins in court
By MICHELE MORGAN BOLTON, Staff writer
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First published: Friday, January 20, 2006
ALBANY — The state Public Employment Relations Board was right when it said State Police committed an improper employer practice by banning off-duty troopers from wearing their union pins in court, an appellate panel ruled Thursday.
The dime-sized Police Benevolent Association lapel insignia has been the subject of a protracted court battle since 2002 when State Police Chief Counsel Glenn Valle barred PBA members from wearing the pin during criminal trials.
Valle’s decision was based on a complaint by then-Rensselaer County District Attorney Kenneth Bruno who claimed the speedy acquittal of a former trooper he was prosecuting might have been influenced by the pin tacked to the lapel of the union representative sitting next to the defendant.
Thursday’s victory wasn’t just for the 3,500 troopers the union represents, but for anyone concerned with employee and union rights, PBA President Dan DeFedericis said.
"Shame on the State Police," he said. "This was petty."
The case took on a bureaucratic life of its own, he said: "Maybe it was ego."
State Police spokesman Lt. Glenn R. Miner said officials had hoped for a different result from the four judges, "but we respect and understand their decision in this instance to defer to PERB."
In his ruling, State Supreme Court Justice Anthony Carpinello noted that no objection to the pin-wearing was ever voiced by either the judge or the prosecutor in the case.
After Valle’s December 2002 edict, the PBA filed an improper practice charge alleging a violation of Civil Service Law. An administrative judge agreed and ordered Valle to rescind it.
PERB agreed that wearing union insignia while off duty and out of uniform is a protected activity under the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act.
Valle asked for a review.
Evidence failed to prove that the working relationship between the State Police and district attorneys would be hurt if off-duty PBA members were allowed to wear insignia in court, Carpinello ruled.
Presiding Justice Anthony V. Cardona and Justices Robert Rose and Anthony Kane agreed.