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Town of Cicero v. Illinois Assocatiation of Firefighters

March 31, 2003

TOWN OF CICERO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ILLINOIS ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 717 AFL-CIO, CLC, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CH 17698 Honorable Nancy J. Arnold, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Smith

Defendant, Illinois Association of Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 717, AFL-CIO, CLC (Union), appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County which vacated and remanded an arbitral award in the Union's favor. The Union contends that the trial court erred in finding the Arbitrator's award to have been arbitrary and capricious and in excess of his authority, and that the scope of the trial court's review was impermissibly broad.

BACKGROUND

The Union is the exclusive bargaining representative of all firefighters employed by plaintiff, the Town of Cicero (Town). In the course of collective bargaining between the Union and the Town over the terms of the Union's 1997 employment agreement, the parties reached an impasse with respect to the Union's proposal to eliminate the Town's residency requirement.

The preceding collective bargaining agreement between the parties contained the following language with respect to residency:

"The Town of Cicero reserves the right to adopt a residency rule for employees covered under this collective bargaining agreement provided that no such rule, if adopted shall be enforced unless it is uniformly applied to all employees and officers of the Town.

***

"The Town of Cicero reserves its right not to submit the issue residency to arbitration pursuant to [the predecessor section to section 14 of the IPLRA]. Attached to this agreement is a copy of the Residency Ordinance for the Town of Cicero."

The Town's residency ordinance, in place since 1979, provides in pertinent part that:

"Sec.2-123. Residency requirement.

(a) All persons accepting appointment or employment with the town as officers, officials or employees, certified or non- certified, must make their residence and maintain their domicile within the Town of Cicero no later than six months after commencing their employment and keep such domicile during the term of the appointment or employment.

***

(c) Failure *** to comply with the residency and domicile requirements will be sufficient cause for termination of employment or removal from service in a manner prescribed by law." Cicero Municipal Code § 2-123 (amended March 29, 1988).

The Union had initially proposed that firefighters be required only to reside in Illinois. The Town in turn proposed that residency within Cicero's municipal boundaries remain the status quo. Hence, the impasse.

Firefighters are classified under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq.) (IPLRA or Act), as persons performing "essential services," and, in consideration of the health and safety of the general public, the Act prohibits them from conducting labor strikes as a means of resolving labor disputes. See 5 ILCS 315/17 & 315/14(m). As an alternative, section 2 of the Act provides that:

" *** To prevent labor strife and to protect public health and the safety of the citizens of Illinois, all collective bargaining disputes involving persons designated by the Board as performing essential services *** shall be submitted to impartial arbitrators, who shall be authorized to issue awards in order to resolve such disputes." 5 ILCS 315/2.

In 1997, the Illinois Legislature amended section 14(i) of the IPLRA and removed the former blanket prohibition on bargaining over residency, for peace officers in municipalities with a population less than 1,000,000. The amended section 14(i) provides in relevant part as follows:

"In the case of peace officers, the arbitration decision shall be limited to wages, hours, and conditions of employment (which may include residency requirements in municipalities with a population under 1,000,000, but those residency requirements shall not allow residency outside of Illinois) and shall not include the following: i) residency requirements in municipalities with a population of at least 1,000,000." 5 ILCS 315/14(i).

The Union accordingly invoked its right to arbitration over the residency issue. The parties waived their rights under section 14(b) of the Act to a tripartite panel (consisting of one delegate selected by each party and a neutral arbitrator) and elected to submit the dispute solely to Arbitrator Herbert Berman for resolution. The parties stipulated that the issue before Arbitrator Berman was "Whether Article 20, Section 20.1 of the (collective bargaining agreement) shall be amended by the Union's proposal." The Union's last proposal, modified from its original offer to limit residency to within Illinois state lines, was:

Effective upon the issuance of the Arbitrator's Award, Section 20.1 of the collective bargaining agreement shall be modified as follows:

All bargaining unit employees shall reside within the geographical area bounded by: Illinois Route 39 on the West; Interstate 80 on the South; Illinois Route 22 on the North and Lake Michigan on the East.

Arbitrator Berman conducted full evidentiary hearings on September 2, 9 and 11, and December 8, 9 and 10, 1998. Both parties then submitted post-hearing briefs. On November 26, 1999, Arbitrator Berman issued his Opinion and Award, in which he adopted the Union's last proposal.

Subsequently, pursuant to section 14(n) of the Act, the Town by a three-fifths majority timely voted to reject the Arbitration award, and the parties returned for a supplemental proceeding pursuant to section 14(o) of the Act. Following the supplemental hearing, additional briefs were submitted by the parties, and on September 12, 2000, Arbitrator Berman issued his Supplemental Opinion and Decision. Therein, he reaffirmed his original decision to adopt the Union's proposal with respect to residency.

On December 26, 2000, the Town filed a petition for review in the circuit court pursuant to section 14(k) of the Act, asking that the court vacate the Arbitrator's opinion and award. *fn1

The Town contended that the Arbitrator's decision was arbitrary and capricious and/or in excess of his statutory authority in the following respects: he improperly acted as a super town board; he failed to adhere to statutory guidelines; he relied on a factor that the legislature did not intend for him to consider; he failed to consider or give weight to the analyses of the Town's expert witnesses; he made invalid assumptions not supported by the evidence presented at the hearings; he failed to adhere to settled arbitral law; he lacked ...


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