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Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 308 v. Chicago Transit Authority

September 25, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 10 CH 29591 Honorable Rita M. Novak, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

JUSTICE QUINN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cunningham and Connors concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 Plaintiff, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 308 (Union), filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County against defendant, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), seeking a declaratory judgment that side agreement Number 30 attached as a part of Exhibit A to the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was invalid due to a lack of sufficient consideration. The circuit court granted the CTA's motion to dismiss the complaint under section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2008)), finding the collective bargaining agreement, which contained a grievance and arbitration process, governed the dispute over side agreement Number 30 between the parties. We affirm.


¶ 3 The plaintiff, Union, is a labor organization as defined by section 3(f) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Act). 5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 2008). The Union is the exclusive representative for certain employees of defendant, CTA's municipal rail transportation system. The CTA is a public employee as defined by section 3(o) of the Act. The Union and the CTA have a long history as parties to collective bargaining agreements dating back to at least 1915.

¶ 4 The parties' current CBA at article 20.5 incorporates, through the attachment of Exhibit A, 38 side agreements that the Union and the CTA have entered into from 1978. Article 20.5 states as follows: " SOLE AGREEMENT. This written Agreement and the documents attached hereto in Exhibit A, Local 308 and Exhibit B, Local 241, constitute the entire written Agreement between the parties, with the exception of settlement agreements." Exhibit A is actually entitled "EXHIBIT A: SOLE AGREEMENT AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, LOCAL 308," and it lists in its table of contents all 38 agreements, including Number 30, entitled "Customer Assistant Coverage Criteria" and dated August 18, 2000, at pages 117-18 of Exhibit A. A footnote on page 1 of Exhibit A states , in part, that the Union and the CTA "agree to retain these side agreements without revision and alteration." The footnote also provides that "the parties agree negotiations will continue in regard to these agreements" and "will be negotiated in good faith with the goal of reaching a final written agreement."

¶ 5 The customer assistant coverage criteria agreement, Number 30, entered into by the parties more than a decade ago and incorporated into its current CBA via article 20.5, deals with the assignment of unionized customer assistants (CAs). The CTA and the union agreed to meet prior to a periodic job-selection procedure to review CA staffing at each rail station; the CTA agreed to provide the union with passenger data at certain rail stations; and the CTA agreed to consider staffing rail stations with additional unionized CAs where traffic warranted. It also states, in part, that the Union agrees "to refrain from pursuing, advancing, or supporting any present or future action of any kind in any contractual, judicial, administrative or other forum concerning the subject matter of this agreement, except as may be necessary to enforce the provisions hereof." Pursuant to the above-quoted language, in March 2009, the Union filed a grievance alleging that the CTA failed to comply with the terms of agreement Number 30. An arbitration hearing on the grievance was begun on June 14, 2010 and testimony was presented. However, after only one day of an arbitration hearing, the Union suspended its participation in the grievance procedure by securing a stay. The arbitrator issued no ruling. Instead of completing the arbitration process it had begun, the Union filed the instant declaratory judgment action in circuit court on July 9, 2010 and alleged that its 10-year-old agreement Number 30 with the CTA was entered into by its Union officials without those officials receiving adequate consideration and requested rescission of the agreement. The Union argued that the CTA had a pre-existing legal duty to bargain with the Union over terms and conditions of employment and, therefore, agreement Number 30 was "illusory and nominal."

¶ 6 On December 30, 2010, the CTA moved to dismiss this action pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(1) (West 2008)) and argued that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Union's complaint because the Act divested it of any jurisdiction over the matter complained of by the Union. The motion was fully briefed, and on April 12, 2011, the circuit court heard oral argument on the motion. On May 3, 2011, the circuit court granted the CTA's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction because the Union failed to exhaust its non-judicial remedies. The circuit court acknowledged the comprehensive statutory scheme of the Act governing collective bargaining and labor practices for public employers and their employees subject to collective bargaining agreements. The Act provides for mandatory non-judicial conflict resolution. Section 8 of the Act states that each CBA "shall contain a grievance resolution procedure which shall apply to all employees in the bargaining unit and shall provide for final and binding arbitration of disputes concerning the administration or interpretation of the agreement." " 'Section 8 of the Act provides that all grievance disputes must be resolved by final and binding arbitration, unless there is a joint agreement of the employer and the union to the contrary.' " Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council v. Town of Cicero, 301 Ill. App. 3d 323, 334 (1998) (quoting American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees v. State of Illinois, 124 Ill. 2d 246, 254 (1988).

¶ 7 Specifically, section 16 of the Act provides as follows:

"Exhaustion of non-judicial remedies. After the exhaustion of any arbitration mandated by this Act or any procedures mandated by a collective bargaining agreement, suits for violation of agreements *** between a public employer and a labor organization representing public employees may be brought by the parties to such agreements in the circuit court in the county in which the public employer transacts business or has its principal office." 5 ILCS 315/16 (West 2008).

The circuit court held that the above-quoted Act provision requires the parties to exhaust procedures mandated by their CBA before seeking judicial review because the parties' CBA contains specified procedures, including arbitration for resolving their contract disputes.

ΒΆ 8 Pursuant to section 2-1203 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1203 (West 2008)), the Union filed a motion to vacate and/or modify the circuit court's May 3, 2011 ruling and reargued that the Union is seeking to invalidate its agreement Number 30 with the CTA for lack of adequate consideration, not arbitrate the terms of the agreement. On July ...

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