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International Union of Operating Eng'rs, Local 965 v. Office of Comptroller

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 12, 2014

INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, LOCAL 965, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
OFFICE OF THE COMPTROLLER, State of Illinois, Defendant-Appellee

Page 553

Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. Nos. 13MR397, 13MR398. Honorable John W. Belz, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

Where plaintiff union entered into two collective bargaining agreements with the Illinois Office of the Comptroller for two different bargaining units, each including employees with the job classification of " Public Service Administrator" (PSA), and less than a year after the agreements became effective, the Public Labor Relations Act was amended to exclude any employee of the Comptroller in the position of PSA from the definition of " public employee" or " employee," the Comptroller excluded PSAs from the agreements as of the amendment's date but the union argued that the amendment should not be applied until after the agreements expired on June 30, 2015, and when the Comptroller filed a unit-clarification petition with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, the union responded by filing petitions in the circuit court seeking declaratory judgments compelling the processing of grievances and arbitration, and the trial court properly dismissed the union's action on the grounds that it failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, since the Comptroller's unit-clarification proceedings were proper under the circumstances, and the Comptroller's action was filed first and the dismissal of the union's action in the trial court obviously did not deprive the union of judicial review of the Board's decision in the unit-clarification proceedings.

Michael W. O'Hara (argued), of Cavanagh & O'Hara, of Springfield, for appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Paul Racette (argued), Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for appellee.

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 554

HARRIS, JUSTICE.

[¶1] Plaintiff, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 965 (Union), appeals the circuit court's dismissal of two actions it filed seeking declaratory relief and naming the Illinois Office of the Comptroller (Comptroller) as defendant. The court dismissed the Union's actions, finding it failed to exhaust administrative remedies before the Illinois Labor Relations Board (Board). We affirm.

[¶2] I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] On April 4, 2013, the Union and the Comptroller entered into two collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs) which were each applicable to separate bargaining units. Each bargaining unit included Comptroller employees who held the job-classification title of " Public Service Administrator" (PSA). Both CBAs were effective retroactively from July 1, 2012, until June 30, 2015.

[¶4] On April 5, 2013, section 3(n) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Act) (5 ILCS 315/3(n) (West 2012)), which defines a " public employee" or " employee" for purposes of the Act, was amended (see Pub. Act 97-1172, § 5 (eff. Apr. 5, 2013)). Relevant to this appeal, the amendment added language to section 3(n) which excluded any " person who is a State employee under the jurisdiction of the *** Comptroller who holds the position of [PSA]" from the definition of " public employee" or " employee." 5 ILCS 315/3(n) (West 2012). The Comptroller interpreted the amendatory language of section 3(n) to mean that PSAs it employed were excluded from collective bargaining as of April 5, 2013, and, therefore, also excluded as of that date from the two bargaining units governed by the CBAs entered into between the parties on April 4, 2013.

[¶5] Conversely, the Union took the position that the statutory amendment was not applicable to the parties' existing contracts and would not affect any bargaining-unit employees until after June 30, 2015, the expiration of the parties' CBAs. On April 26, 2013, it served two grievances on the Comptroller (one for each bargaining unit), alleging the Comptroller's action " to unilaterally

Page 555

remove the [PSA] classification from both of the bargaining units" at issue violated the parties' CBAs. On May 9, 2013, the Comptroller responded to the Union, stating it refused to recognize the Union's grievances as valid. It asserted as follows:

" [A]s of April 5, 2013, [PSAs] in the employ of the [Comptroller] no longer enjoyed the rights connected to collective and concerted ...

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