SCHOOLS PRINCIPALS AND SUPERVISORS ORGANIZATION (PLPSO), APPELLEE
April 18, 1997, No. S-95-621
1. Statutes: Appeal and Error. Statutory
interpretation presents questions of law, in connection with which an appellate
court has an obligation to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the
decision made by the court below.
2. Statutes: Legislature: Intent. In reading
a statute, a court must determine and give effect to the purpose and intent of
the Legislature as ascertained from the entire language of the statute
considered in its plain, ordinary, and popular sense.
3. _____: _____: _____. Unless the
Legislature has plainly indicated a contrary purpose or intention, when a
statute specifies the object of its operation, the statute excludes from its
operation every object not expressly mentioned therein.
4. Administrative Law: Commission of
Industrial Relations: Jurisdiction. The Nebraska Commission of Industrial
Relations is an administrative agency empowered to perform a legislative
function and, as such, has no power or authority other than that specifically
conferred on it by statute or by a construction thereof necessary to accomplish
the purposes of the act establishing the commission.
Petition for further review from the
Kelley Baker, Jerry L. Pigsley, and Maren
Lynn Chaloupka, of Harding, Shultz & Downs, for appellant.
Robert E. O'Connor, Jr., for appellee.
WHITE, C.J., CAPORALE, WRIGHT, CONNOLLY,
GERRARD, STEPHAN, and MCCORMACK, JJ.
Commission of Industrial Relations determined that the petitioner-appellee,
Papillion/LaVista Schools Principals and Supervisors Organization, constituted
an appropriate bargaining unit; ordered an election; and pursuant to the results
thereof, certified the organization as the exclusive collective bargaining agent
in its labor negotiations with the respondent-appellant, Papillion/LaVista
School District, School District No. 27. The district appealed to the Nebraska
Court of Appeals, asserting, in summary, that the commission erred in
determining that the organization constituted an appropriate bargaining unit and
in its other rulings. The Court of Appeals affirmed the orders of the
commission, see PLPSO v. Papillion/LaVista School Dist., 5 Neb. App. 102,
555 N.W.2d 563 (1996), whereupon the district successfully sought further review
by this court. We now reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand
the cause with the direction that the petition be dismissed.
dispositive issue is controlled by statute. Statutory interpretation presents
questions of law, in connection with which an appellate court has an obligation
to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the decision made by the
court below. Metropolitan Utilities Dist. v. Balka, ante p. 172, 560
N.W.2d 795 (1997).
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-102 (Reissue 1996) classifies school
districts in six classes, either on the basis of the grade levels maintained or
on the basis of such levels and the population within the territory encompassed
by the school district. State ex rel. Perkins Cty. v.
supervise assistant principals in that all employees in the building are
accountable to the principals, who are considered the "bosses" and run
the building. Assistant principals report to principals if they are going to be
late for work or take a day off from work. Principals also evaluate assistant
principals' performances, recommend continued employment, and influence merit
pay. Although superintendents, who are not members of the unit, work with and
supervise the principals, the principals are ultimately in charge of
disciplining employees and are expected to resolve situations in which an
assistant principal consistently fails to perform his or her job duties.
Finally, principals give advice on the hiring of new assistant principals.
principals meet weekly with their assistant principals, while others confer or
coordinate daily with their assistant principals, but the assistant principals
are considered autonomous as to certain duties, and the assistant
superintendents, who are not members of the unit, supervise the principals and
assistant principals and regularly deal directly with the assistant principals.
The principals do not tell the assistant principals how, when, or where to do
their jobs on a daily basis; instead, the principals and assistant principals
perform under a team approach. For example, both supervise teachers.
to the other supervisory personnel, the coordinator for special services and the
director of the English as a Second Language program report to the director of
special services. The senior high school athletic director appears to report to
a senior high school principal. The challenge coordinator, library media
coordinator, and director of business operations report to individuals outside
the proposed unit.
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-816(3) (Reissue 1993) provides:
(3)(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (c) of this subsection, a
supervisor shall not be included in a single bargaining unit with any other
employee who is not a supervisor.
(b) All firefighters and police officers employed in the fire department or
police department of any municipal corporation in a position or classification
subordinate to the chief of the department and his or her immediate assistant or
assistants holding authority subordinate only to the chief shall be presumed to
have a community of interest and may be included in a single bargaining unit
represented by an employee organization for the purposes of the Industrial
Relations Act. Public employers shall be required to recognize an employees
bargaining unit composed of firefighters and police officers holding positions
or classifications subordinate to the chief of the fire department or police
department and his or her immediate assistant or assistants holding authority
subordinate only to the chief when such bargaining unit is designated or elected
by employees in the unit.
(c) All administrators employed by a Class V school district shall be presumed
to have a community of interest and may join a single bargaining unit composed
otherwise of teachers and other certificated employees for purposes of the
Industrial Relations Act, except that the following administrators shall be
exempt: The superintendent, associate superintendent, assistant superintendent,
secretary and assistant secretary of the board of education, executive director,
administrators in charge of the offices of state and federal relations and
research, chief negotiator, and administrators in the immediate office of the
superintendent. A Class V school district shall recognize an employees
bargaining unit composed of teachers and other certificated employees and
administrators, except the exempt administrators, when such bargaining unit is
formed by the employees as provided in section 48-838 and may recognize such a
bargaining unit as provided in subsection (2) of this section. In addition, all
administrators employed by a Class V school district, except the exempt
administrators, may form a separate bargaining unit represented either by the
same bargaining agent for all collective-bargaining purposes as the teachers and
other certificated employees or by another collective-bargaining agent of such
administrators' choice. If a separate bargaining unit is formed by election as
provided in section 48-838, a Class V school district shall recognize the
bargaining unit and its agent for all purposes of collective bargaining. Such
separate bargaining unit may also be recognized by a Class V school district as
provided in subsection (2) of this section.
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-801(5) (Reissue 1993) defines employee
as used in the Industrial Relations Act as including "any person employed
by any employer." Section 48-801(4) defines employer as meaning "the
In reading a
statute, a court must determine and give effect to the purpose and intent of the
Legislature as ascertained from the entire language of the statute considered in
its plain, ordinary, and popular sense. Boss v. Fillmore Cty. Sch. Dist. No.
19, 251 Neb. 669, 559 N.W.2d 448 (1997); Van Ackeren v.
of § 48-816(3)(a) unequivocally declares that except as otherwise provided, a
supervisor shall not be included in a single bargaining unit with any other
employee who is not a supervisor. We have interpreted that language to mean that
a single bargaining unit cannot include supervisors and those whom the
supervisors responsibly direct. See, e.g., IBEW Local 1536 v. Lincoln Elec.
Sys., 215 Neb. 840, 341 N.W.2d 340 (1983) (crew members and foremen required
to responsibly direct them could not be included in same bargaining unit); Nebraska
Assn. of Pub. Emp. v. Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, 197 Neb. 178,
247 N.W.2d 449 (1976) (supervisory personnel could not be part of rank and file
bargaining unit or retain same bargaining agent); City of Grand Island v.
American Federation of S. C. & M. Employees, 186 Neb. 711, 185 N.W.2d
860 (1971) (under then version of § 48-816, firefighters could not be in same
bargaining unit as captains and lieutenants responsibly directing them). The
only exceptions to the general rule expressed in § 48-816(3)(a) are certain
firefighters and police officers, as provided in § 48-816(3)(b), and certain
administrators employed by Class V school districts, as provided in §
48-816(3)(c). Given that the record is silent as to the district's
classification, the record necessarily fails to establish that the district is a
Class V school district.
It is true
that Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-838(2)
(Reissue 1993) provides, in relevant part: "It shall be presumed, in the
case of governmental subdivisions such as municipalities, counties, power
districts, or utility districts with no previous history of collective
bargaining, that units of employees of less than departmental size shall not be
appropriate." It is further true that in American Assn. of University
Professors v. Board of Regents, 198 Neb. 243, 253 N.W.2d 1 (1977), we
observed that this statutory presumption evidences a legislative effort to avoid
the undue fragmentation of bargaining units. However, the statutory presumption
cannot and does not negate specific statutory language providing otherwise. As
we wrote in ruling that a county official who had no wage-setting authority
could not be a member of a bargaining unit consisting of officials having such
It is further argued to us that should we find that each elected [county]
official is a proper party to speak on behalf of the county with regard to his
or her individual employees, great fragmentation will occur. While we have
generally said that fragmentation to the extent it can be avoided should be
avoided, see American Assn. of University Professors v. Board of Regents,
203 Neb. 628, 279 N.W.2d 621 (1979), and Sheldon Station Employees Assn. v.
Nebraska P.P. Dist., 202 Neb. 391, 275 N.W.2d 816 (1979), we have never held
and could not hold that artificial units must be created solely to reduce the
number of appropriate units. We are simply not at liberty to disregard the
meaning of the statute in order to more efficiently administer labor
negotiations. While that may be a desirable end, it is for the Legislature to
make that decision, and not for the courts.
Sarpy Co. Pub. Emp. Assn. v.
contrary to the organization's contention, the enactment of § 48-816(3)(c)
exempting certain Class V school district administrators from the operation of
§ 48-816(3)(a) by permitting them to join a single bargaining unit does not
evidence a legislative purpose or intent to permit like administrators in school
districts of whatever class to do the same. There is nothing in the unambiguous
language limiting the operation of § 48-816(3)(c) to Class V school districts
which suggests any such intention. Had the Legislature intended such a result,
it could easily have provided that the exemption apply to all school districts.
Thus, the resolution of this contention is controlled by the well-known general
principle of statutory construction: expressio unius est exclusio alterius; that
is, the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another. State Bd. of Ag.
v. State Racing Comm., 239 Neb. 762, 478 N.W.2d 270 (1992). Stated in other
terms, unless the Legislature has plainly indicated a contrary purpose or
intention, when a statute specifies the object of its operation, the statute
excludes from its operation every object not expressly mentioned therein. See Nebraska
City Education Assn. v. School Dist. of Nebraska City, 201 Neb. 303, 267
N.W.2d 530 (1978). Because in § 48-816(3)(c) the Legislature expressly
authorized only certain administrators in Class V school districts to join
together, the foregoing rule prevents application of the exemption to any other
class of school district.
In the final
analysis, it must be remembered that the commission is an administrative agency
empowered to perform a legislative function and, as such, has no power or
authority other than that specifically conferred on it by statute or by a
construction thereof necessary to accomplish the purposes of the act
establishing the commission.
foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is, as noted in the
first paragraph hereof, reversed and the cause remanded with the direction that
the petition be dismissed.
REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTION.