WASHINGTON -- Splitting 5-4, the Supreme Court gave federal workers and their labor unions a major victory yesterday, allowing them to bring up new issues for bargaining even while an existing contract is in effect.
Among the federal employees who will directly benefit from the decision are thousands of Social Security Administration workers in the Baltimore area, including those at the agency's headquarters in Woodlawn.
They and other federal employees had argued that they had a right to raise new issues midterm, but that claim had been rejected in a series of rulings by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the Richmond court's view was wrong.
It did so in the latest case, involving Interior Department employees in Reston, Va., and declared that federal law does not bar unions from raising new issues, and demanding negotiations on them, while an existing contract has time to run.
The law neither requires such bargaining nor prohibits it, the court said, leaving the Federal Labor Relations Authority to decide whether to permit it.
That agency has repeatedly favored midterm mandatory bargaining on new issues, according to Gregory O'Duden, an attorney for the National Treasury Employees Union.
The labor relations authority had appealed to the Supreme Court in the Interior Department case.
In a separate ruling yesterday, the court, with one dissent, ruled that the Constitution allows insurance companies to suspend injured employees' worker compensation medical benefits during the time needed to review the companies' claims that the medical bills were not valid and should not be paid.
Pub Date: 3/04/99