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International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 148, AFL-CIO v. Dep't. of Employment Security

December 16, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Franklin County. No. 95-MR-15 Honorable E. Kyle Vantrease, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Chapman


The defendants, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (Department) and Central Illinois Public Service Company (CIPS), appeal an order of the Franklin County circuit court overturning the Director of Employment Security's decision that members of the plaintiff union were ineligible for unemployment benefits for a period of time that they were out of work due to a labor dispute between CIPS and another union. On appeal, the defendants contend that (1) the union lacked standing to challenge the administrative decision on behalf of its members and (2) the circuit court erred in reversing the Director's determination that the workers were ineligible for benefits. We affirm.


Most of CIPS's employees are represented by two unions: the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 148 (Local 148), which is the plaintiff herein, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 702 (Local 702). On June 30, 1992, CIPS's contracts with both unions expired. The parties agreed to a series of contract extensions while negotiations on new contracts continued. On May 20, 1993, with no advanced notice to the unions or the employees, CIPS locked out the union employees. Members of both unions sought unemployment benefits. On June 11, 1993, a claims adjudicator from the Department determined that they were ineligible for benefits because the work stoppage was due to a labor dispute. Both unions appealed.

On June 14, 1993, Local 148 reached an agreement with CIPS on a new contract, which the union members ratified a few days later. Although CIPS ended the lockout of Local 148 employees, effective June 23, 1993, the union members voted to honor the picket lines maintained by Local 702. However, the leadership of Local 148 specifically instructed its members not to participate in Local 702's picketing activities in any way. On August 28, 1993, CIPS and Local 702 reached an agreement on a new contract and the lockout ended.

On November 19, 1993, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint and a notice of hearing. Each side alleged that the other had refused to bargain in good faith. The unions contended that CIPS had violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (29 U.S.C. §151 et seq. (1988)) by locking out union members in retaliation for "working to rule"-i.e., strictly adhering to safety regulations-and refusing overtime before contract negotiations broke down. CIPS contended that the lockout was designed to promote a resolution to the labor dispute and that the employees had engaged in a work slow-down.

On January 11 and 12 and May 3 and 4, 1994, the Director's representative, Robert Hayes, conducted hearings in the unions' appeals from the claims adjudicator's determination that their members were ineligible for benefits. The NLRB proceedings were pending simultaneously with the proceedings before Hayes. On January 3, 1995, Hayes issued a report recommending that the claims adjudicator's determination be set aside. He based his recommendation on principles of federal preemption. Hayes noted that the NLRB could find that the lockout violated the NLRA. Hayes reasoned that if the NLRB found that CIPS's lockout of the union members violated the NLRA, section 604 of the Unemployment Insurance Act (820 ILCS 405/604 (West 1992)) would be inapplicable because the NLRA violation would have to be found to be the cause of the work stoppage, rather than a labor dispute. Thus, he did not determine whether the employees fell within the relieving proviso of section 604, which provides that employees who are out of work due to a work stoppage caused by a labor dispute in which they are not participating are eligible for unemployment insurance if they do not have a direct interest in the dispute and are not the same grade or class as the employees participating in the dispute (820 ILCS 405/604 (West 1992)).

On January 12, 1995, CIPS filed an objection to Hayes's report. On February 16, 1995, the Director issued a decision in which she found that the members of Local 148 had a direct interest in the continuing dispute between CIPS and Local 702 after Local 148 and CIPS had reached an agreement, and the Director ruled that the union members were not eligible for benefits for the entire period from May 20 to August 28, 1993.

On March 22, 1995, Local 148 filed a complaint in the circuit court of Franklin County, seeking a review of the Director's decision pursuant to the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 1994)). The complaint named only Local 148 as a plaintiff and CIPS and the Department as defendants. On April 26, 1995, CIPS and the Department each filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, contending that (1) the complaint failed to join all necessary parties because it did not name the Director as a defendant and (2) Local 148 lacked standing to seek a review of the decision because it was not a party of record in the administrative proceedings nor was it aggrieved by the Director's decision. On April 28, Local 148 filed a motion for leave to file a first amended complaint. In a May 17, 1996, docket entry, the court denied both motions to dismiss and granted the union's motion to file an amended complaint. The same day, Local 148 filed its first amended complaint, adding the Director as a defendant. On June 17, the Department and CIPS jointly filed a motion to reconsider, which the court denied on April 1, 1997.

On October 26, 2001, the circuit court entered an order finding that (1) the members of Local 148 did not have a direct interest in the continuing contract negotiations between CIPS and Local 702 and (2) the members of the two unions were not the same grade or class. The court ruled that the employees were therefore eligible for unemployment benefits for June 22 to August 28. This appeal followed.


A. The Union's Standing

Both CIPS and the Department contend that Local 148 lacked standing to challenge the Director's decision because it was not a party of record aggrieved by the Director's decision. Local 148 responds that (1) it was accorded party status during the administrative proceedings when the claims adjudicator listed it and CIPS as "interested parties" and (2) it has standing to challenge the decision as a representative of its members, who unquestionably would have standing to seek administrative review individually. In making the latter contention, the union asks us to adopt the federal principle of "associational standing" annunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343, 95 S. Ct. 2197 (1975), and Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 53 L. Ed. 2d 383, 97 S. Ct. 2434 (1977). For the reasons that follow, we conclude that Local 148 has standing to bring the instant action on behalf of its members.

1. Associational Standing

The doctrine of standing exists to ensure that courts decide only actual, specific controversies. Thus, to have standing to bring any action, a party must possess a real interest in the action and its outcome. Nolan v. Hillard, 309 Ill. App. 3d 129, 138, 722 N.E.2d 736, 744 (1999). An "interest" in the outcome of the action means more than mere curiosity or concern for the outcome; rather, the party seeking relief must possess a personal claim, status, or right that is capable of being affected. The dispute must touch the legal relations of parties in positions adverse to each other. Underground Contractors Ass'n v. City of Chicago, 66 Ill. 2d 371, 376, 362 N.E.2d 298, 301 (1977).

Federal courts have held that an organization has standing to sue as a representative of its members if (1) its members would have standing to bring the action individually, (2) the interests sought to be protected are germane to the organization's purpose, and (3) the participation of the individual members is unnecessary. Hunt, 432 U.S. at 343, 53 L. Ed. 2d 383, 97 S. Ct. at 2441. Illinois courts are not required to follow federal rules regarding standing; however, where the state and federal laws of standing differ, state courts tend to be more liberal, finding standing to challenge an administrative action where federal courts would not. Greer v. Illinois Housing ...

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