Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association Page 3

Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association general information

Media for Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1982 in Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association

Robert H. Chanin:

The normal and intended function of a school mail facility is not to carry information by anyone, about any subject.

The normal and intended function, as both of the lower courts recognized, and indeed as Appellees concede in their briefs, is to communicate to the teachers information that involves school business.

That is the normal and intended function.

So we must look in this case as to what does the phrase "school business" mean.

And in the context that we have before us, it derives meaning from two sources.

The first is the inherent function of any school district to educate children.

This function would embrace any communications that the school district reasonably concludes are supportive of that mission, that are of relevance and educational interest to the students.

But there is in this case a second source from which the phrase "school business" derives meaning, and that is the Indiana labor relations statute, more specifically the representational duty that that statute imposes upon the union that is designated as the exclusive representative and which requires it to have an effective method for communicating with the members of the bargaining unit that it is both authorized and obligated to represent.

The Appellees admit, as does the court below, that PEA has legal obligations vis a vis the members of the bargaining unit that it does not have.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Chanin, what does the record show here was the use by others of the mail facilities?

Robert H. Chanin:

What the record shows, Justice, is that subsequent to the designation of PEA as the exclusive representative in 1977 the mail facilities have been used by PEA in its representational capacity and by the YMCA, the YWCA, the Cub Scouts and certain parochial schools, all organizations which we submit are on their face youth-oriented civil organizations which are engaged in activities that would be of interest and educational relevance to students.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Does the record tell us any more about the specific uses than simply the identity of the users?

Robert H. Chanin:

No, the record indeed says nothing about the specific uses by PEA or by any of the other groups.

It merely identifies those who have had access, and the only groups that have had post-1977 access are the civic youth groups I've identified.

William H. Rehnquist:

Is it possible to say, Mr. Chanin, whether any group besides... is it the PLEA is your group's rival?

Robert H. Chanin:

It is our rival.

William H. Rehnquist:


Were affirmatively excluded in the sense of having sought access and been denied it?

Robert H. Chanin:

There is nothing in the record to indicate that.

William H. Rehnquist:

Does that lead to... can you then generalize as to what the school district's standard for access to these mailboxes was, or are you left pretty much to having several points and trying to figure out where the line goes?

Robert H. Chanin:

Oh, no, we have no trouble whatsoever identifying the standard.

We think the standard is that the school mail facilities since 1977 have been limited to communications dealing with school business.

And we think that youth organizations that wish to communicate about their youth-oriented activities and programs is school business, and we think that an elected exclusive representative with statutory obligations toward the teachers is also school business.

The record indicates no other use post-1977, and we think the standard is clear.

John Paul Stevens:

Can you give us some examples of communications from your client to the teachers that would be school business as you describe it?

Robert H. Chanin:

Not from the record, Justice Stevens, but I can tell you what this union and other unions typically include in their communications.

They send information about the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement, about the settlement and disposition of grievances, about working conditions that they are dealing with the school board about.

Thurgood Marshall:

And what a stinker the other union is.

Robert H. Chanin:

Pardon me, sir?

Thurgood Marshall:

And what a stinker the competing union is.