Appeal from the Circuit Court of Grundy County; the Hon.
Robert Wren, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE ALLOY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
At issue in the instant appeal is whether section 3-14.24 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 3-14.24) imposes upon school boards a duty to refrain from negotiating with individual teachers after the election and certification of an exclusive bargaining representative. Section 3-14.24 provides the following, as a duty of the regional superintendent of schools:
"Recognition of exclusive bargaining representatives. To administer the recognition of exclusive representatives of bargaining units, making certain that each bargaining unit contains employees with an identifiable community of interest and that no unit includes both professional employees and nonprofessional employees unless a majority of employees in each group vote for inclusion in the unit.
A public school employer may voluntarily recognize a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes if that organization appears to represent the greatest number of employees, and such recognition shall continue pending certification by the regional superintendent that the labor organization represents a majority of employees in the unit.
A labor organization may also gain recognition as the exclusive representative by an election of the employees in the unit. Petitions requesting an election may be filed with the regional superintendent:
A. by an employee or group of employees or any labor organization acting on their behalf alleging and presenting evidence that 30% or more of the employees in a bargaining unit wish to be represented for collective bargaining or that the labor organization which has been acting as the exclusive bargaining representative is no longer representative of a majority of the employees in the unit; or
B. by an employer alleging that one or more labor organizations have presented a claim to be recognized as an exclusive bargaining representative of a majority of the employees in an appropriate unit or that it doubts the majority status of an exclusive bargaining representative.
The regional superintendent shall investigate the petition and if he has reasonable cause to suspect that a question of representation exists, he shall give notice and conduct a hearing. If he finds upon the record of the hearing that a question of representation exists, he shall direct an election. Nothing prohibits the waiving of hearings by the parties and the conduct of consent elections.
No election may be conducted in any bargaining unit during the term of a collective bargaining agreement covering such unit or subdivision thereof, except the regional superintendent may direct an election after the filing of a petition between January 15 and February 15 of the final year of a collective bargaining agreement. No election may be conducted in a bargaining unit, or subdivision thereof, in which a valid election has been held within the preceding 12 month period.
Elections shall be by secret ballot. The regional superintendent may establish rules and regulations for the conduct of elections. Only labor organizations supported by 15% or more of the employees in the bargaining unit are eligible for placement on the ballot. The ballot must include, as one of the alternatives, the choice of `no representative.' No mail ballots are permitted except where a specific individual would otherwise be unable to cast a ballot.
The labor organization receiving a majority of the ballots cast shall be certified by the regional superintendent as the exclusive bargaining representative. If the choice of `no representative' receives a majority, the employer shall not recognize any exclusive bargaining representative for at least 12 months. If none of the choices on the ballot receives a majority, a runoff shall be conducted between the 2 choices receiving the largest number of valid votes cast in the election. The regional superintendent shall certify the results of the election within 5 working days after the final tally of votes unless a charge is filed by a party that improper conduct occurred which affected the outcome of the election. The regional superintendent shall promptly investigate the allegations, and if he finds probable cause that improper conduct occurred and could have affected the outcome of the election, he shall set a hearing on the matter on a date falling within 2 weeks of when he received the charge. If he determines, after hearing, that the outcome of the election was affected by improper conduct, he shall order a new election. If he determines upon investigation or after hearing that the alleged improper conduct did not take place or that it did not affect the results of the election, he shall immediately certify the election results.
Any labor organization that is the exclusive bargaining representative in an appropriate unit on the effective date of this amendatory Act shall continue as such until a new one is selected under this Section." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 3-14.24.
The following pertinent facts are disclosed in the record. Plaintiffs Linda Andracke and Patrick Luther were tenured teachers employed by the Board of Education of Minooka High School District No. 111 (hereinafter referred to as Board). On December 11, 1981, the teachers of the school district filed a petition with the regional superintendent of schools, pursuant to section 3-14.24, seeking a representation election to select a representative for the teachers of the district. The election was then scheduled for March 16, 1982.
In January 1982, the superintendent requested that the teachers form a committee to discuss with the Board various issues, including salary and other terms and conditions of employment for the 1982-1983 school year. A similar "meet and confer" procedure between the Board and a teachers' committee had been utilized in years past. Discussions between the Board and the committee continued through the weeks prior to the scheduled election and included the exchange of a series of proposals and counterproposals. On March 16, 1982, the election was held and the Minooka High School Education Association, a plaintiff herein, was elected as exclusive bargaining representative for the teachers. The same date as the election, the Board suspended all further negotiations.
Thereafter, on March 31, 1982, without having conducted further negotiations or meetings, the Board sent a letter to each teacher in the district, setting forth two separate contract proposals. The letter offered each teacher the choice of being re-employed for the 1982-1983 school year at the same salary and on the same terms as 1981-1982, or being re-employed at a higher salary and different terms and conditions of employment, one of the ...