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Board of Education v. Chicago Teachers Union





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District, heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Richard L. Curry, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied November 25, 1981.

On April 16, 1974, a Chicago public elementary school teacher was viciously beaten by an unknown assailant. The assault occurred during school hours in the hall outside the teacher's classroom while she was bringing her students back from the lunchroom. She was hospitalized and unable to return to her teaching duties until September 1, 1976.

At the time of the assault article 44-8 of the collective bargaining agreement in effect between the Chicago board of education and the Chicago Teachers Union provided:

"Teachers or other bargaining unit members whose absences result from school-related assault shall be paid full salary and medical expenses by the Board and no deduction shall be made from sick leave."

Pursuant to this article the union filed a grievance on the teacher's behalf several weeks after the assault. After some negotiation the board agreed to pay her full salary for the remainder of the 1973-74 school year. But when school reconvened in September 1974 for the 1974-75 school year, the teacher did not receive her regular pay checks. The union filed a second grievance on October 29, 1974, which eventually became the subject of this appeal. The union and the teacher requested that she be paid her full salary; the board refused and the grievance proceeded through the regular grievance channels.

Meanwhile, on April 7, 1975, the teacher filed a claim under the workers' compensation statute. After a hearing and an appeal to the Industrial Commission, she was awarded $17,361.22 for disability and medical expenses. The award was confirmed by the circuit court of Cook County, and the board agreed, on August 25, 1976, to pay the Industrial Commission's award.

The union had demanded that the grievance go to arbitration, as was its right under the collective bargaining agreement, but the board refused to participate in the selection of an arbitrator under the procedures established by the agreement. The union then selected an arbitrator under the procedure provided for by the agreement, without the board participating. On February 8, 1977, the union and the teacher, the defendants herein, appeared before the arbitrator and presented evidence. The board, although notified of the hearing, was not represented, but it later filed a brief with the arbitrator. On August 30, 1977, the arbitrator found for the teacher and awarded her $34,936.10, an amount equal to her unpaid salary for the school years 1974-75 and 1975-76.

On November 23, 1977, the board filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County to vacate the arbitrator's award, as authorized by the Uniform Arbitration Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 10, par. 112). On the defendants' motion, the court struck and dismissed the board's complaint and confirmed the arbitrator's award in full. The appellate court confirmed the decision (82 Ill. App.3d 354), and this court granted leave to appeal (73 Ill.2d R. 315).

The circuit court's role when asked to vacate or confirm an arbitrator's award is limited. When the award is made pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, the court is directed to look to the common law grounds for vacating an arbitration award that were in effect before the enactment of the Uniform Arbitration Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 10, par. 112(e).) Those grounds were set out in an exhaustive analysis of the common law in White Star Mining Co. v. Hultberg (1906), 220 Ill. 578, 601-10. They are fraud, corruption, partiality, misconduct, mistake, or failure to submit the question to arbitration. In the present case there is no suggestion that the arbitrator committed fraud, was corrupt or partial or engaged in any form of misconduct. The only grounds on which the arbitrator's award could have been vacated by the circuit court, then, were mistake or a failure to submit the issue to the arbitrator.

The latter ground is similar to jurisdiction. The arbitrator's power is taken only from the agreement, and the scope of that power must be defined by the agreement. The collective bargaining agreement here defines a complaint that the agreement has been violated as a grievance and refers grievances such as the present one through channels that can, upon the union's request, result in a final, binding decision by an arbitrator. On its face, then, the issue appears to have properly been sent to arbitration.

The board, however, points to article 1-18 of the agreement, which provides:

"The terms of this Agreement shall not apply where inconsistent with constitutional, statutory or ...

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