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Bd. of Trustees v. College Teachers Union

OPINION FILED MAY 26, 1981.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF JUNIOR COLLEGE DISTRICT NO. 508, COOK COUNTY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

COOK COUNTY COLLEGE TEACHERS UNION, LOCAL 1600, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff Board of Trustees of Junior College District No. 508 (the Board) sought to enjoin defendant Cook County Teachers Union (the Union) from resubmitting a grievance of one of the Union's members to the arbitrator who had initially ruled thereupon pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement existing between the parties. The Union counterclaimed, asking either for an order that the Board submit to further arbitration of the grievance issue or for adjudication of the issue by the circuit court. That court denied the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment and ordered the matter remanded to the arbitrator. The Board appeals, asking this court to determine whether such remand was erroneously mandated.

The Board is empowered to govern and manage the community colleges located within the city of Chicago. The Union is a labor organization which serves as the exclusive bargaining representative of full-time faculty members employed by the Board.

A collective bargaining agreement existed between the parties at the time during which the matters now at issue occurred. Among the provisions of that agreement was a section governing grievance procedures. The agreement provided that a grievance would, if necessary, be resolved through arbitration proceedings. A specified individual was appointed to serve as permanent arbitrator. The parties to the agreement promised that "the decision of the arbitrator will be accepted in good faith as final by both parties to the grievance and both will abide by it," and that neither party would appeal an arbitration award to the courts> "unless the arbitrator is believed by either party to have acted illegally."

In January 1972, the Board began a reorganization of the structure of various departments. One of the components of this reorganization involved the merger of the previously separate departments of art, foreign languages, humanities, and music into a single entity.

The individual departments had been directed by individual chairpersons. Each such person was entitled to certain special considerations under the collective bargaining agreement. Due to the time-consuming functions required of a chairperson, he would be allowed a lesser teaching load while still receiving his full teacher's salary. This reduction in teaching load is referred to as "released time."

Pursuant to the merger plan, the chairpersons of the four departments involved were asked to choose a single chairperson for the planned consolidated department. They either could not or would not do so. Nevertheless, pending completion of reorganization, the Board informed the four individuals that only six hours total released time per semester could be made available for distribution among them (as opposed, apparently, to the availability of a similar amount of time for each person previously). The four agreed among themselves upon a plan to rotate accessibility to the six available hours.

In spite of this rotation agreement, three of the four persons involved filed grievances, complaining that they had been deprived of released time. Pursuant to procedures set forth in the collective bargaining agreement, the grievances eventually were submitted to arbitration. After holding evidentiary hearings on May 18, June 18, and July 27, 1976, the arbitrator issued a written decision on December 22, 1976. Due to the nature of this appeal, it is essential that certain portions of that document be set out.

In a section entitled "opinion," the arbitrator set forth his findings. Among them, he stated:

"2. The merger of the departments involved herein into one department never was actually completed as of the time of the hearing in this case. * * *"

"3. The grievants continued to perform all of the department chairpersons' functions with the full knowledge of the Board after the announcement of the Board's merger plans."

"6. * * * The grievants in this case, * * * operating as department chairpersons, were entitled to the full contractual released time provided for chairpersons under the terms of the agreement between the parties."

In a section entitled "award," the arbitrator stated that the three grievants were:

"[A]warded compensation to be computed upon the basis of the contractual released time to which they were entitled as department chairpersons during the period involved in this proceeding." (Emphasis added.)

A dispute concerning the arbitrator's decision arose between the parties about the meaning of the term "compensation" and about the period of time for which this compensation was to be made. Apparently, both the Union and the Board orally agreed to resubmit the matter to the arbitrator for clarification of these items. Thereafter, attorneys for the respective parties submitted letters to the arbitrator outlining their positions. As to the time period issued, the Union's attorney stated that "the parties can also readily determine each semester that the Grievants served in the capacity of department chairpersons * * *." The Board's attorney stated, "In view of the Union's insistence that the parties can readily determine the semesters in which the grievants were denied released time, the Board will not pursue the matter further, and will leave it for the determination of the parties. The Board states, however, that the Arbitrator should not clarify ...


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