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04/20/89 the City of Burbank, v. the Illinois State Labor

April 20, 1989





538 N.E.2d 1146, 128 Ill. 2d 335, 131 Ill. Dec. 590 1989.IL.557

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Illinois State Labor Relations Board.


JUSTICE CALVO delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE WARD took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


The City of Burbank (the City) appeals from a decision of the appellate court (168 Ill. App. 3d 885), affirming the decision and order of the Illinois State Labor Relations Board (the Board) finding that the City had engaged in unfair labor practices under sections 10(a)(1), (a)(2), and (a)(3) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, pars. 1610(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3)) when it "reorganized" the structure of its public works department (the Department). The reorganization, which the Board found was motivated by antiunion animus, resulted in the discharge of only one employee-Robert Randle, a prounion foreman who was active in the organizational campaign which culminated in certification of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO , as the exclusive bargaining representative of the Department's employees.

On appeal, the City contends that (1) the appellate court employed an inappropriate standard of review, and (2) the decisions of the appellate court and the Board are contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. We reject the City's contentions and affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

In July of 1984, AFSCME began organizing the Department's employees. At Robert Randle's request, an AFSCME organizer met with the Department's employees at their work site. During the meeting, the other departmental foreman, Norbert Maza, expressed his opposition to unionization. On August 15, 1984, an AFSCME representative and a number of the Department's employees attended a city council meeting to formally request that the City recognize AFSCME as the employees' exclusive bargaining representative. Randle spoke at the meeting, advocating that the City recognize AFSCME. The council deferred action on the request, pending receipt of a legal opinion from the city attorney.

According to Randle, he attempted to speak with Robert Herrmann, the City's administrator, after the meeting. Although Randle and Herrmann had been friends, Herrmann refused to talk to Randle because of Randle's role in AFSCME's organizational campaign. Herrmann did not talk to Randle again until the morning of August 1, 1985, when he confirmed that Randle had been discharged.

The morning after the meeting, prior to the start of the shift, the director of public works, James Seiler, interrupted a conversation between Randle and department employee Andrew Patellaro, to "angrily" inform Randle that he was not to discuss union business on company time. Subsequently, Seiler became distant, speaking to Randle only when absolutely necessary, and progressively curtailing his duties and responsibilities.

When the city council next met on September 12, 1984, action on AFSCME's request for recognition was again postponed. Consequently, AFSCME filed a petition with the Board on September 28, 1984, seeking to represent the Department's employees. The City responded by challenging the appropriateness of AFSCME's requested bargaining unit, claiming, inter alia, that the two foremen were "supervisors" within the meaning of the Act, and thus should be excluded from the bargaining unit. Based on Randle's testimony, the Board determined that the foremen were not supervisors. The Board ordered a representation election to determine whether the Department's employees desired representation by an exclusive bargaining representative.

At the representation election, the City challenged Randle's eligibility to vote on the ground that Randle was a supervisor under the Act. The City contested the inclusion of the foremen in the bargaining unit and requested a reversal of the Board's earlier decision that the foremen were statutory employees. When its objections were dismissed on July 18, 1985, the City tried, unsuccessfully, to challenge the Board's unit determination in the circuit court. AFSCME was certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of the Department's employees on August 2, 1985.

Prior to Board certification, the city council, on July 31, 1985, enacted an ordinance which "restructured" the Department, eliminating the foremen positions and creating a new position of deputy director. The City did not have a drafted copy of the ordinance prepared until after the meeting. The authority purportedly vested in the new position of deputy director under the ordinance mirrored that accorded a supervisor under section 3(r) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 1603(r)).

Seiler, the director of public works, later testified before the hearing officer that he had never discussed or heard of any plan to reduce the Department's staff prior to the July 31, 1985, meeting. Harry Klein, the city treasurer, testified subsequently that as early as February of 1985 he had recommended to Seiler and other city officials, based on purely fiscal considerations, that the City restructure the Department. Klein said his recommendation was based, inter alia, upon an article he had read in the Illinois Municipal Review and his belief that it was cheaper and more efficient to have street repairs effected by private contractors. Seiler testified that the City had saved a substantial amount of money by having the Department's employees do the work, and the work done by the Department's employees was as good or better than that completed by private contractors. The hearing officer subsequently determined that the article Klein claimed to have relied on in making his ...

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