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Police Lodge No. 108 v. Washington Park





Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. Jerry D. Flynn, Judge, presiding. JUSTICE JONES DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 108 and Joseph Russell, brought the instant action to compel the defendant, the village of Washington Park, to arbitrate the issue of sick pay for member police officers. The action was based upon the parties' collective-bargaining agreement, which provided for the arbitration of disputes arising under the agreement. By way of defense, the village contended that it had lawfully terminated the collective-bargaining agreement before grievance procedures were initiated under that agreement. After a hearing the trial court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the defendant to submit to arbitration. We affirm.

It was stipulated by the parties that the agreement concerning sick pay was in effect at least until December 15, 1981. On that date the village board of trustees passed a resolution terminating the agreement. The plaintiffs subsequently initiated grievance procedures concerning claims for sick pay by 10 village police officers for the week of December 7, 1981, through December 15, 1981. Despite the fact that the plaintiffs followed grievance procedures set out in the agreement, the village refused to submit to arbitration on the issue of sick pay.

The plaintiffs filed a petition to compel arbitration, and a hearing was held on the complaint. Kenneth Koski, chief of police for the village, testified that immediately prior to December 4, 1981, there were 10 full-time police officers, seven part-time police officers, and four police dispatchers employed by the village. On December 1, 1981, Joseph Russell, one of the 10 full-time officers, was "laid off" by the village. A dispute arose between the plaintiff police union and the village regarding the decision to lay off Joseph Russell.

On December 4, 1981, all of the officers assigned to the day shift (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) reported for duty. The whole shift of three officers assigned to work from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. reported in sick. The two officers working the 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. shift the next morning also called in sick. On December 5, 1981, only one officer appeared for duty, and the other officers called in sick.

All of the officers who had reported in sick on December 4-5, 1981, stayed off work until December 16, 1981. In addition to the seven full-time police officers failing to report for work during that period, three full-time dispatchers called in sick, and all of the part-time officers contacted during that time declined to work.

On December 15, 1981, police chief Koski was directed by the village board to order the men back to work. Koski sent registered letters ordering the officers to return to work or report to the village doctor for a physical. Koski stated that he believed all of the officers reported to the doctor.

"The doctor sent back doctor certificates stating what they [the officers] claimed their illness was and some of them were ordered back to work by him and some of them were still off a few days."

None of the officers violated the order to return to work, and all of the officers provided Koski with a doctor's excuse for the time they were off work.

Koski testified further that there had been no similar failure of police officers to report for work during the year prior to December 4, 1981. In Koski's six years as police chief, he had experienced no other period when approximately 60% of the police force was off duty at the same time.

Ralph Franklin, president of the village board of trustees, testified that the village had been in negotiations with the plaintiff police union prior to December 1, 1981, when Joseph Russell was laid off. At that time Russell had held the position of secretary of the union and was one of its negotiators.

Franklin stated that Thomas Benedick, attorney for the union, had met with the members of the village board following their regular meeting on December 8, 1981. On that occasion, Franklin testified,

"we discussed about [sic] the different things we were hung up on the contract. I think there [were] about three issues and we — two of them we got away with but the main thing he went back to them — I think we agreed with two out of three and he went back and told the officers of the union and he came back and he said there would be no deal unless Mr. Russell [was] called back to work. There wouldn't be no settlement [sic] of the contract."

According to Franklin, Benedick "indicated" that the work stoppage would be ended if Russell were reinstated but "[h]e didn't say it. I don't know what kind of words [sic] because everyone was talking about it after he left." The board refused to call Russell back to work at that time.

At its next regular meeting on December 15, 1981, the village board passed a resolution terminating the contract between the policemen and the village. Franklin stated that this decision was a result of the board's opinion that the policemen were on strike. That opinion was based upon the board's previous discussion with Benedick and upon statements given to the press by Benedick ...

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