The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Garman
THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Plaintiff Anita Cessna was discharged in September 1995 from her employment as a bus driver for the Danville Mass Transit Company, which is owned and operated by defendant City of Danville (City). In May 1996, she filed a four-count complaint in the circuit court of Vermilion County against the City; Local 214D of United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO and CLC (Local Union); and United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO and CLC (International Union) (collectively, Unions). She alleged breach of contract and constructive fraud against the City, breach of duty of fair representation against the Local Union, and constructive fraud against the International Union. On defendants' motions, the circuit court dismissed all four counts with prejudice. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand with directions.
In count I against the City (styled breach of contract), plaintiff alleged that (1) on September 19, 1995, she was discharged from her employment by the City for alleged failure to stop her bus at a stop sign; (2) on that date, she was a member of the Local Union and was a beneficial party to a collective-bargaining agreement (Agreement) between the City and the Local Union; (3) certain provisions of the Agreement stated that the City may suspend or discharge an employee for "just cause" and that the authority of the City to discipline or discharge shall not be arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory in nature; (4) the City disregarded statements from plaintiff, another bus driver, and three bus passengers stating that plaintiff did stop her bus at the stop sign; (5) the City breached the Agreement by discharging plaintiff without just cause and by discharging her in an arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory manner, including applying rules and regulations it promulgated pursuant to the Agreement in an arbitrary and capricious manner; (6) plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies through the third step of the grievance procedure of the Agreement; and (7) the City denied the third-step grievance on December 1, 1995, and the Local Union refused to arbitrate the grievance beyond that point. Plaintiff asked for back wages and reinstatement with full benefits and seniority. Count II of the complaint against the City (styled constructive fraud) alleged that (1) plaintiff's discharge by the City constituted a constructive fraud in one or more of the following ways: (a) the original "fact" hearing held by the City was conducted by the City's personnel director, who had an inherent conflict of interest; (b) plaintiff was only given three days between notice of hearing and the hearing date to obtain witnesses and information; (c) the City failed to provide a procedure to obtain the testimony of witnesses on plaintiff's behalf; (d) the City's personnel director made no findings as to why plaintiff's testimony was not credible; (e) the decision to discharge plaintiff was made on the recommendation of the personnel director, not based upon the evidence presented at the hearing; (f) plaintiff was discharged without consideration of her employment record, as required by the Danville Mass Transit Company's rules and regulations; (g) the City failed to consider and refused to record eyewitness testimony presented at the second-stage grievance hearing; (h) the City discharged plaintiff without just cause; and (i) the City applied inherently inconsistent rules in discharging plaintiff; and (2) plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies through the third-step grievance and the Local Union refused to arbitrate the grievance beyond that point. In addition to back wages and reinstatement, plaintiff asked for punitive damages.
Count III of the complaint was against the Local Union (styled breach of duty of fair representation) and alleged that (1) plaintiff pursued the first three steps of the grievance procedure with her personal attorney in cooperation with the Local Union; (2) the Local Union voted in a sealed vote on September 24, 1995, on whether to arbitrate plaintiff's grievance; (3) the Local Union breached its duty of fair representation in one or more of the following ways: (a) without consulting plaintiff or her attorney, the Local Union president entered into a collusive "understanding" with the City's mayor that plaintiff be reinstated without payment of back pay or benefits; (b) the Local Union decided to ignore its duty to represent plaintiff because she had hired an attorney; (c) at a meeting on December 10, 1995, the Local Union voted to ignore and destroy the September 24, 1995, sealed vote and voted to refuse to arbitrate plaintiff's termination, despite her request that the Local Union proceed with arbitration; and (d) the decision not to demand arbitration was not an exercise of good-faith judgment on the part of the Local Union, but was made because of hostility toward plaintiff; and (4) the time period under the Agreement within which to arbitrate plaintiff's grievance ended on December 11, 1995. Plaintiff asked for a judgment for back wages.
Count IV of the complaint against the International Union (styled constructive fraud) alleged that (1) on information and belief, the International Union by its duly authorized representative, Vernon Frakes, willfully conspired with and directed its Local Union to refuse to arbitrate plaintiff's grievance due to hostility toward plaintiff and (2) the actions of the International Union constitute a constructive fraud. Plaintiff asked for a judgment for back wages and punitive damages.
On June 28, 1996, the Unions filed a joint motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1994)), alleging that the claims plaintiff asserted in her complaint against the Unions are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Illinois State Labor Relations Board (Board) pursuant to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Act) (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 1994)) and the circuit court therefore lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to hear them.
On July 9, 1996, the City filed a motion pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code, seeking to dismiss counts I and II. The motion alleged that (1) plaintiff had failed to exhaust her remedies under the grievance procedure set forth in article 6 of the Agreement and (2) the Board has exclusive jurisdiction under the Act over collective-bargaining matters between employee organizations and units of local government and the circuit court therefore lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's claims.
Article 6 of the Agreement is entitled "Grievance Arbitration" and provides that if the parties to the Agreement are unable to reach a settlement of the grievance using the procedures outlined in article 5, either party may submit the grievance to arbitration by a demand for arbitration to the other party within six working days after denial of the grievance in the last step of the grievance procedure. The parties to the Agreement are the City and the Local Union.
On February 13, 1997, the circuit court granted the City's motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. On the same date, the court also entered a separate order granting the Unions' joint motion to dismiss, ruling that exclusive jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims against the Unions lies with the Board and the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over them.
On appeal, plaintiff advances three arguments: (1) the circuit court has jurisdiction to adjudicate her causes of action against the Unions; (2) she did in fact exhaust her contractual remedies under the Agreement and, thus, she is entitled to pursue her claims against the City in the circuit court; and (3) the circuit court has jurisdiction to adjudicate her causes of action against the City.
"A trial court should dismiss a cause of action only if it is apparent that no set of facts can be proven that will entitle plaintiff to recover. [Citation.] Motions to dismiss admit facts well pleaded [citation], together with all reasonable inferences which can be drawn from those facts [citation], but does not admit Conclusions unsupported by allegations of specific facts on which such Conclusions rest [citation], or Conclusions of law. [Citation.] A reviewing court must determine whether the allegations of the complaint, when interpreted in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, are sufficient to set forth a cause of action upon which relief may be granted." Munizza v. City of Chicago, 222 Ill. App. 3d 50, 51-52, 583 N.E.2d 561, 563 (1991).
Plaintiff argues that the circuit court has subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate her causes of action against the Unions. She relies on the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (LMRA) (29 U.S.C. §§141 through 187 (1994)) and federal rulings thereunder as persuasive authority for interpretation of the Act. She points out the similarities between the sections in the two statutes regarding what constitutes an unfair labor practice. Compare 29 U.S.C. §§158(a),(b) (1994) (employer and labor organization unfair labor practices, respectively), with 5 ILCS 315/10(a),(b) (West 1996) (employer labor organization unfair labor practices, respectively). She also relies on Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 17 L. Ed. 2d 842, 87 S. Ct. 903 (1967), where the Supreme Court held that jurisdiction of the courts and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over a cause of action for breach of the duty of fair representation is concurrent. The Vaca holding was reaffirmed in Breininger v. Sheet Metal Workers International Ass'n Local Union No. 6, 493 U.S. 67, 75, 107 L. Ed. 2d 388, 401, 110 S. Ct. 424, 430 (1989). It has been held that rulings of the NLRB and the federal courts construing the LMRA are persuasive authority for similar provisions in the Act. See American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board, 190 Ill. App. 3d 259, 264, 546 N.E.2d 687, 690-91 (1989). Thus, according to plaintiff, logic dictates that her cause of action for breach of the duty of fair representation should be treated in the same manner as a similar federal cause of action.
In dismissing plaintiff's claims against the Unions, the trial court relied on a decision of the first district, Foley v. American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, Council 31, Local No. 2258, 199 Ill. App. 3d 6, 556 N.E.2d 581 (1990). In that case, plaintiffs were parole officers employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections. They were also members of the defendant union. They filed a grievance with the union over actions of the employer, and the union processed the grievance through the third step of the grievance procedure established by the collective-bargaining agreement. The union refused to arbitrate the grievance on the basis that the claim could not prevail. Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging that the union had breached its duty of fair representation and the employer had breached the collective-bargaining agreement. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, finding, as to the union, that exclusive jurisdiction lay with the Board. The appellate court affirmed. As to the claim against the union, the court noted that section 10(b)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for a union to restrain or coerce public employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed by the Act. Thus, breach of the duty of fair representation is an unfair labor practice that is subject to the Act's "comprehensive scheme of remedies and administrative procedures." Foley, 199 Ill. App. 3d at 10, 556 N.E.2d at 583.
The Foley court interpreted section 5 of the Act (5 ILCS 315/5 (West 1994)) as conferring exclusive jurisdiction on the Board over breach of duty of fair representation claims. It also noted that decisions of the Board are appealable directly to the appellate court and that no provision of the Act allows employees to file suit in the circuit court alleging a breach of the duty of fair representation. The court also found support for its decision in an opinion by our supreme court in Board of Education of Community School District No. 1, Coles County v. Compton, 123 Ill. 2d 216, 526 N.E.2d 149 (1988), finding that the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 1701 et seq.) divested the circuit court of jurisdiction to vacate or enforce arbitration awards pursuant to the Uniform Arbitration Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 10, pars. 101 through 123), despite the absence of any express language in the statute divesting the ...