On Direct Appeal from Illinois Labor Relations Board, State Panel, Nos. S-VR-04-002 & S-VR-04-006.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner
In September 2003, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, AFL-CIO (AFSCME) filed petitions with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, State Panel (Board), to be certified as the representative of certain public employees of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (District). In October 2003, a unit-preference election was conducted, and voters favored a combined unit of professional and nonprofessional employees. In November 2003, the Board certified AFSCME as the exclusive representative of the employees. The District has sought review of that certification.
On review, the District argues (1) the Board's certification is void as a matter of law because the Board certified a representative under rules not lawfully adopted, (2) the Board arbitrarily combined two separate petitions into a single petition for recognition in a combined unit, and (3) the Board's certification of AFSCME as the bargaining representative was erroneous. We reverse and remand.
On September 4, 2003, AFSCME filed with the Board two "Request[s] for Voluntary Recognition Certification" with respect to nonprofessional and professional employees of the District in case Nos. S-VR-04-002 and S-VR-04-006. Each petition excluded the employees covered by the other petition from the proposed bargaining unit. AFSCME indicated its request for recognition for the professional and nonprofessional employees of the District was based on "the recently-enacted legislation HB 3396." Further, an AFSCME organizer stated she had "submitted authorization cards as evidence of majority support."
On September 26, 2003, the Board sent a letter to the District, advising that it had received "the attached representation petition, filed pursuant to [s]section 9(a)(5) of the Illinois Public [Labor] Relations Act [(5 ILCS 315/9(a)(5) (West 2002)) (Act)], as amended." (Emphasis in original.) The letter advised the District that it was required to immediately submit an alphabetized list of names, job classifications, and signature exemplars of the employees in the unit. The District was notified it must respond to the petition within 14 days, raising any issues concerning the appropriateness of the bargaining unit and whether any employees should be excluded from the unit. Further, if the District believed "the petitioner obtained its showing of majority support through the use of fraud or coercion, [it] must provide clear and convincing evidence of that fraud or coercion" at the time of filing the response. The Board also required the District to post an enclosed "Notice to Employees" in conspicuous places for 14 consecutive days.
On October 1, 2003, the District's attorney, Frederic M. Grosser, sent a letter to the Board, indicating he had previously sent a facsimile transmission on September 12, 2003, requesting he be furnished with "copies of the signed authorization cards" referenced in the requests for voluntary recognition. Grosser stated the information was necessary for the District to determine an appropriate response. On October 6, 2003, the District provided the Board with an updated alphabetical list of names and job classifications of the employees in the units described in both of AFSCME's petitions and also included signatures from the added or new employees.
On October 14, 2003, the District sent a letter to the Board, indicating it "generally agrees" with the bargaining unit as proposed. The District stated it concurred "with the petition that this proposed bargaining unit for professional employees should exclude all nonprofessional employees" because each group has "a different community of interest[s], including skills, functions[,] and licensing requirements." The District noted it had twice requested copies of signed authorization cards but had not received a response from the Board. Without the requested information, the District stated it was "unable to take any position at this time with respect to the propriety of the petition, except as otherwise set forth in this response." Also on October 14, 2003, the Board sent a letter to the District, indicating the Board "scheduled a unit[-]preference election" in these cases to be held on October 24, 2003.
On October 23, 2003, the District sent a letter to the Board, objecting to the Board's scheduled unit-preference election. The District stated the election appeared "contrary to the petitions filed by AFSCME" and it had "not been apprised of whether either petition [was] supported by a proper showing of interest." The District alleged it could "not find the basis in Illinois statutes or rules for the *** Board to initiate such a unit-preference election without first determining whether or not a majority of each proposed bargaining unit supports union representation."
The "Notice of Election" issued by the Board was posted by the District (certified on October 22, 2003) and indicated its purpose was to determine whether the employees named in the petition "wish to be represented in a single bargaining unit containing both professional and nonprofessional employees, or in separate bargaining units of professional or nonprofessional employees." The notice described two units: "Unit A (professional employees) and Unit B (nonprofessional employees)."
The "Tally of Ballots," dated October 24, 2003, indicated that of the 51 eligible voters in group A (professional employees), 33 votes were cast in favor of a combined unit, while 13 were cast against a combined unit. Of the 27 eligible voters in group B (nonprofessional employees), 17 votes were cast in favor of a combined unit, while 5 were cast against it.
On November 21, 2003, the Board issued a "Tally of Majority Interest," finding of the 85 employees in the appropriate unit, 49 signed valid cards for AFSCME, declaring AFSCME had prevailed in the determination of majority support. The Board thereby certified that a majority of the employees in the petitioned-for unit had indicated support for AFSCME and that labor organization was the exclusive representative of all the employees in the unit. On December 23, 2003, the District petitioned this court for administrative review of the certification-of-representative order certifying AFSCME as the exclusive representative of all employees in the unit.