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Board of Education v. Faculty Association





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.


This appeal arises out of a declaratory judgment action brought by the Board of Education of Township High School District No. 205 against the defendant Faculty Association of District 205. The board sought a declaration of inarbitrability and a stay of arbitration proceedings with respect to a labor grievance filed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. The faculty association had filed the grievance on behalf of Marion Fox, a school nurse who had been terminated by the board. The defendant faculty association answered plaintiff's complaint, denying that the dispute was inarbitrable under the terms of the contract and prayed that plaintiff be ordered to submit the dispute to binding arbitration. Marion Fox was subsequently added as a party defendant and given leave to file a counterclaim. Therein, she advanced several theories of recovery, all of them culminating in a request that the school board be required to reinstate her and make her whole for all economic and emotional injuries resulting from her termination. Plaintiff appeals from an order of the trial court granting defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to the arbitrability issue and requiring the parties to arbitrate the dispute.

The record reveals that at all relevant times both the school board and the faculty association were parties to a collective bargaining agreement referred to as a "Professional Negotiations Contract" (contract). The preamble of the contract recognizes the faculty association as the exclusive bargaining agent for

"all professional certificated employees of the district eligible for active membership in the Association except psychologists, administrative assistants in charge of deans, administrative assistants in charge of counselors, administrative assistants in charge of student activities, assistant-principals, and central office administrative personnel." (Emphasis added.)

The coverage under the contract is further elaborated in article IA of the substantive provisions wherein the faculty association is recognized as

"the exclusive and sole negotiating agent for all regularly employed certified personnel who are paid pursuant to the adopted salary schedule and as defined in the Professional Negotiations Contract."

Article IB provides the following definition:

"The term `teacher' or `certificated professional employee' when used hereinafter in this agreement, shall refer to all employees represented by the Association in the negotiating units as determined in paragraph `A' above."

Marion Fox was a member of the faculty association and was employed by the school board as a registered professional nurse. On April 8, 1981, the school board honorably dismissed Ms. Fox due to declining enrollment. Pursuant to the "Professional Grievance Procedure" of the contract, the faculty association filed a grievance on behalf of Ms. Fox alleging among other things that the school board's action violated the "reduction in personnel" section of the contract and that her termination was a reprisal for a prior strike action. The applicable contract grievance procedures are typical of labor contracts in general and provide for escalating steps in the processing of the labor grievance culminating in binding arbitration. The scope of grievable issues subject to arbitration is broadly defined by the contract as

"[a] claim based upon an event or condition which affects the conditions or circumstances under which a teacher works, allegedly caused by misinterpretation or inequitable application of the terms of the Professional Negotiations Contract including the Substantive Agreement." (Emphasis added.)

The school board apparently refused to process Ms. Fox' grievance, whereupon the faculty association filed a formal demand for arbitration. The board responded by initiating the declaratory judgment action which forms the subject matter of the present appeal. Our review of the proceedings below is limited to the issue of whether the dispute over Marion Fox' termination is arbitrable under the contract grievance provisions. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Initially, we note that the Illinois legislature and courts> have recognized the unique function of arbitration in the context of labor-management relations. (See Board of Trustees v. Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600 (1979), 74 Ill.2d 412, 419, 386 N.E.2d 47; Croom v. City of De Kalb (1979), 71 Ill. App.3d 370, 375, 389 N.E.2d 647.) Accordingly, our case law draws a distinction between the guidelines applicable in determining the arbitrability of a dispute in a labor context as opposed to a commercial context. (Croom v. City of De Kalb (1979), 71 Ill. App.3d 370, 374-75, 389 N.E.2d 647.) This development of separate standards followed the lead established by the United States Supreme Court in a series of seminal cases commonly referred to as the Steelworkers Trilogy. (United Steelworkers of America v. American Manufacturing Co. (1960), 363 U.S. 564, 4 L.Ed.2d 1403, 80 S.Ct. 1343; United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co. (1960), 363 U.S. 574, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409, 80 S.Ct. 1347; United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp. (1960), 363 U.S. 593, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424, 80 S.Ct. 1358.) In United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co. (1960), 363 U.S. 574, 578, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409, 1415, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 1351, the court commented on the distinction between arbitration in the commercial setting and labor arbitration in the setting of a collective bargaining agreement, noting:

"In the commercial case, arbitration is the substitute for litigation. Here arbitration is the substitute for industrial strife. Since arbitration of labor disputes has quite different functions from arbitration under an ordinary commercial agreement, the hostility envinced by courts> toward arbitration of commercial agreements has no place here. For arbitration of labor disputes under ...

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