Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 01 CH 06243 Honorable Donald J. O'Brien, Jr., Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice O'brien
Local 241 and Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (the Unions) brought an action to vacate an arbitration award interpreting a provision in their collective bargaining agreement with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) pertaining to the formula for calculating pension contributions for CTA employees serving as part-time officers of the Unions. Finding that the arbitrator had exceeded his authority under the collective bargaining agreement, the circuit court granted summary judgment for the Unions and vacated the arbitration award. The CTA appeals. We affirm.
Local 241 is the exclusive representative of a group of employees including, but not limited to, bus drivers employed by the CTA. Local 308 is the exclusive representative of a group of employees including, but not limited to, rapid transit operators employed by the CTA.
The Unions and the CTA are parties to a collective bargaining agreement for the term January 1, 1996, through December 31, 1999. The collective bargaining agreement incorporates a retirement plan for CTA employees that is funded by contributions from both the CTA and participating employees. The CTA and the participating employees contribute to the retirement plan at rates calculated by a percentage of each employee's "compensation."
Prior to 1990, a fixed cap formula, known as Rule 14, provided that "compensation" for pension contribution purposes would be calculated as basically CTA pay plus 5%. Since 1990, the retirement plan eliminated references to the Rule 14 fixed cap formula and provided that "compensation" for full-time and part-time Union officers would consist of the individual's combined "total earnings" from the CTA and the Unions. The retirement plan also now provides that, for pension purposes, the "compensation" of a union member occupying a position with an International office shall not exceed the compensation of the highest paid officer of the Local.
In July 1996, a dispute arose between the Unions and the CTA over the interpretation of the term "total earnings" in the retirement plan as applied to part-time Union officers. The CTA claimed that a certain part-time Local 241 officer had retired with an excessively large pension allowance. The CTA contended that it requested certain documentation from the Union to investigate the matter, and when none was forthcoming, the CTA ceased making contributions to the retirement fund on the reported earnings of full-time and part-time officers of Local 241. When the parties were unable to settle the dispute, they agreed to arbitration.
The arbitrator ruled in relevant part as follows:
"[A] reasonable limit on 'total earnings' paid to individuals in part-time Union positions is required and will be imposed. However, no limit will be imposed on earnings prior to July 1, 1996.
*** Effective July 1, 1996, earnings for pension benefit purposes for individuals in part-time positions with the local Unions will be limited to the following, using the two options in Rule 14 as amended on April 21, 1980:
(a) For the period July 1, 1996, through April 30, 1998, the basic pay as computed under Rule 14, including the 5% adjustment representing average overtime and other pay credits plus up to an additional 20% over and above such base pay.
(b) Effective May 1, 1998, the basic pay as computed under Rule 14, including the 5% adjustment representing average overtime and other pay credits plus up to additional 10% over and above such base pay.
The 20% and 10% additional adjustments are not automatic entitlements. Any additional compensation over and above the basic pay, as defined above, up to the 20% and 10% additional limits, must be justified by adequate documentation showing payments by the Local Unions for CTA-related work performed for the Union. What constitutes 'adequate documentation' and 'CTA-related' work is referred to the parties for final determination."
The parties were unable to agree about what constitutes " CTA-related work" and "adequate documentation" and asked the arbitrator for clarification. On January 12, 2001, the arbitrator answered that with respect to CTA-related work, the Unions had the burden of demonstrating that the activity for which retirement credit was sought was relevant to the CTA's interests and concerns. With respect to the question concerning adequate documentation, the arbitrator ruled ...