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City of Chicago v. Chicago Fire Fighters Union





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN F. HECHINGER, Judge, presiding.


Defendants, Chicago Fire Fighters Union, Local No. 2, and its presidents, Frank J. Muscare, were found to be in contempt of court for refusing to obey a preliminary injunction enjoining them from striking against plaintiff, City of Chicago. For their direct civil contempt, the union was fined $40,000 and Muscare was fined $5,000. Muscare was also found guilty of direct criminal contempt and was sentenced to five months imprisonment. Defendants appeal.

On February 14, 1980, plaintiff filed a complaint to enjoin the union, and its officers and trustees, and the International Association of Fire Fighters. AFL-CIO, and its representative, from engaging in a strike against the city. The complaint alleged that defendants had ceased working and had refused to return to work although ordered to do so by the city; had encouraged and induced other fire department employees to stop working; and were picketing plaintiff's facilities. The city charged that defendants' conduct constituted a strike; that their acts were illegal, wrongful and contrary to the law; that such conduct interfered with the city's operations and presented an immediate threat to the health, safety and welfare of the city and its citizens; and that the city would suffer irreparable harm and would be unduly prejudiced if defendants were not restrained and enjoined immediately without notice or bond. Similar allegations were set forth in an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order which accompanied the complaint. Both the complaint and emergency motion were verified by Richard G. Albrecht, the Chicago Fire Commissioner. That same day, the trial court found that defendants were engaging in an illegal strike which impaired the functioning of the fire department and jeopardized the health, safety and welfare of the citizens. Accordingly, the court entered an ex parte temporary restraining order enjoining defendants as follows:

"A. From striking against the CITY OF CHICAGO;

B. From promoting, encouraging, authorizing, sanctioning, instigating or lending support or assistance to any strike, work stoppage or work slow down of the employees of the CITY OF CHICAGO;

C. From interfering in any manner either directly or indirectly with the operations of the plaintiff, CITY OF CHICAGO'S Fire Department, or any other operations of the plaintiff, CITY OF CHICAGO;

D. From causing, participating in or permitting any picketing in or about said Fire Department facilities or other facilities of the CITY OF CHICAGO;

E. From coercing, interfering with, or preventing any employee of the plaintiff, CITY OF CHICAGO, from engaging in the performance of his lawful duties and functions on behalf of the plaintiff, CITY OF CHICAGO;

F. From engaging in acts or conduct calculated to incite or encourage the employees of plaintiff's Fire Department to ignore or disobey instructions, directions and orders to said employees from the appointed Fire Commissioner of plaintiff and the duly elected Mayor of plaintiff;

G. From undertaking and engaging in acts of insubordination and refusal to do their duties as required by the ordinances of the plaintiff, CITY OF CHICAGO and the Rules and Regulations, Practices and Procedures of plaintiff's Fire Department or directions and orders, oral or written, which have been issued or which may hereinafter be issued by the appointed Fire Commissioner of plaintiff."

Notice and copies of the order were served upon defendants later that day. Albrecht issued an emergency recall notice to all officers and members of the fire department ordering them to report to work immediately and noting that those persons failing to report as ordered would be subject to disciplinary action and would be in violation of the court order.

Two days later, plaintiff moved for a rule to show cause why defendants should not be held in contempt for failing to obey the temporary restraining order. Defendants filed an appearance and a motion to dismiss the complaint and dissolve the temporary restraining order. In the motion, later verified in open court by Muscare, defendants did not deny that they had initiated a strike action. They denied, however, that such action jeopardized public health and safety since they remained ready to provide protection in accordance with their strike plan. Defendants admitted that they had not returned to work and indicated that they did not intend to do so until a contract was ratified. The gist of the motion was that the complaint was rendered moot by virtue of actions or statements of the city having the effect of terminating fire department employees from service. In support of this position, defendants pointed to Albrecht's back to work order and to Mayor Byrne's letter to Muscare stating that group coverage for medical insurance paid by the city would expire at the end of the pay period for those firefighters on strike. Before conducting a hearing on these motions, the court suggested that the city and fire fighters meet together in an attempt to reach agreement.

On February 17, 1980, after hearing argument of counsel, the court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. The court found that the city had not effectively terminated employees of the fire department. Defendants were given leave to file an answer and response to plaintiff's motion for a rule to show cause. Later that day, defendants presented their answer, also verified by Muscare in open court, admitting that the union membership had voted to authorize a strike; that they had stopped work and had induced and encouraged other employees of the fire department to stop work; that they were presently picketing the city's facilities; that they were engaging in a strike; that they had not terminated the strike and returned to work as instructed; and that their strike was contrary to the law. Defendants denied that their actions created an immediate threat to public health, safety and welfare inasmuch as they were volunteering their services for emergencies.

At this proceeding, plaintiff requested the issuance of a preliminary injunction providing the same relief provided by the temporary restraining order. After hearing testimony, the court entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting the conduct set forth in paragraphs A through E of the temporary restraining order. Plaintiff then requested that its motion for a rule to show cause be heard. In support of its motion, plaintiff argued that defendants' admissions in their verified motion to dismiss and answer constituted evidence of direct contempt. The court expressed its belief that based on the evidence presented, everyone involved was directly contemptuous of the court's orders. Muscare and several union representatives were then given an opportunity to purge themselves of contempt. Asked individually whether they would comply with the court's orders by directing union members to return to work, Muscare and the other union officials responded that they would not. Based upon their own pleadings and affirmations made under oath, both in and out of court, the court found that these individuals were contumacious and in wilful defiance of the court's temporary ...

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