Recently, a small Pennsylvania borough council passed a resolution completely banning its police officers from smoking anywhere on, in, or around all borough property, equipment, and vehicles. The officers’ union filed a grievance, claiming that a broad ban on tobacco use was an unfair labor practice.
The police officers’ case floundered at first when they lost in the initial phases. But apparently doggedly determined to smoke at least at some moments of their workday, they took their claims all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Recently, that court decided that once a union and labor management have bargained and are operating according to a contract, they must negotiate changes in “working conditions.” Finding that a total ban on smoking during all working hours was a change in “working conditions,’ the court sent the parties to the bargaining table to address the smoking issue, setting aside the borough’s council’s resolution.