for Review of Order of the Illinois Labor Relations Board,
JUSTICE BIRKETT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Burke concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Petitioner, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Lake County
(Clerk), appeals the final decision and order of respondent
the Illinois Labor Relations Board, State Panel (Board),
certifying respondent the American Federation of State,
County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (Union), as the
exclusive representative of a bargaining unit composed of
certain of the Clerk's employees. On appeal, the Clerk
challenges the propriety of the Board's decision,
contending that it was not properly adopted. The Clerk also
argues that the Board misapprehended the pleading
requirements to challenge a majority-interest petition and
that the Clerk produced sufficient evidence of fraud or
coercion to warrant an evidentiary hearing. We confirm the
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 The record reveals, pertinently, that, on January 20, 2015,
the Union submitted a majority-interest petition pursuant to
section 9(a-5) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act
(Act) (5 ILCS 315/9(a-5) (West 2014)), seeking to represent a
bargaining unit composed of certain of the Clerk's
employees. On January 21, 2015, the Clerk was notified of the
petition and directed to respond if it so chose.
Particularly, the Clerk was notified that, if it believed
that the Union had used fraud or coercion to obtain the
signatures necessary to demonstrate majority support, it was
required to present clear and convincing evidence of the
fraud or coercion in its response to the petition.
4 On February 6, 2015, the Clerk timely filed its response to
the Union's majority-interest petition. Relevantly, the
Clerk alleged that the Union had used fraudulent information
and had threatened employees in an effort to coerce them into
signing dues-deduction cards. The Clerk included two
affidavits in its response.
5 Jeanne Polydoris, the chief deputy clerk, submitted one of
the affidavits attached to the Clerk's response.
Polydoris was not eligible to become a member of the proposed
bargaining unit. She averred that four eligible employees of
the Clerk complained to her about the Union's
representatives. Three of the employees requested that their
identities be kept confidential because they feared
repercussions from the Union or from their coworkers.
6 According to Polydoris, one employee was visited by
different Union representatives between 7 and 8 p.m., twice a
week for an unspecified number of weeks. The employee
"believed [the representatives] were watching her house
and tracking her schedule." Polydoris reported that the
employee was a single mother and that she was so frightened
by their conduct that she filed a police report.
7 Polydoris averred that a second employee informed her that
a Union representative visited her home. The second employee
maintained that the Union representative was condescending
and insulted her intelligence. The second employee reported
to Polydoris that the representative claimed that union
membership would result in better pay, better pay increases,
and better vacation benefits. Additionally, the employee
stated that the representative claimed that future pay raises
under a collective bargaining agreement would be sufficient
to cover her union dues. The second employee told Polydoris
that the representative used insults and peer pressure to
attempt to coerce her into joining the Union.
8 Polydoris noted that a third employee stated that a Union
representative "came to her home and told her that
joining the union would be free and there would not be any
dues." The employee was concerned about how the
representative knew her home address.
9 Veronica Ventura, an employee of the Clerk, submitted the
second affidavit attached to the Clerk's response to the
Union's petition. She averred that a coworker approached
her about joining the Union. The next day, Ventura received a
text message from the coworker, who was not scheduled to work
that day, stating that the coworker would meet Ventura
outside the office after working hours. Ventura averred that
she "found [the coworker's] text threatening and it
made [Ventura] feel uncomfortable." After work, the
coworker was waiting for Ventura. Ventura informed the
coworker that she would not sign a dues-deduction card.
10 Ventura further averred:
"That evening, around 8:00 pm [sic], [a Union]
Representative came to my house to pressure me into signing
the card. I had already told [the coworker] that I was not
interested and this conduct made me feel even more
threatened. I escorted the [Union] Representative out of my
home and told him that I was not interested and that I had
already told [the coworker] that. As he was leaving, he said
he was going to come back on Sunday. I found this threatening
and I was concerned about how the [Union] Representative so
reported it [sic] to my supervisor, *** upon
returning to work the following workweek."
11 Ventura averred that the coworker continued to press
Ventura to join the nascent bargaining unit, both by text
message and face-to-face. Ventura once again told the
coworker that she "did not appreciate [the
coworker's] text or the [Union] representative coming to
[her] home." Ventura maintained that she "felt
threatened by [her coworker] and even more threatened by the
[Union] Representative coming to [her] home."
12 The matter was then assigned to an administrative law
judge (ALJ) for further proceedings. On March 10, 2015, the
ALJ issued an order to show cause on two of the Clerk's
objections. The ALJ explained:
"In its last objection, the [Clerk] argues that [the
Union] obtained support for its campaign through the use of
fraud and coercion. Section 9(a-5) of the Act [(5 ILCS
315/9(a-5) (West 2014))] states that if a 'party provides
to the Board *** clear and convincing evidence that the dues
deduction authorizations, and other evidence upon which the
Board would otherwise rely to ascertain the employees'
choice of representative, are fraudulent or were obtained
through coercion, the Board shall promptly thereafter conduct
an election.' The [Clerk] states that [the Union]
obtained employees' personal contact information to
contact employees at home. It also states that [the Union]
provided fraudulent information to employees and threatened
them into signing representation cards. In support of its
allegations, the [Clerk] provided two affidavits which
describe [the Union's] conduct in this matter. However, I
do not find that the affidavits are clear and convincing
evidence of fraud or coercion as one affidavit is based on
hearsay and the other does not describe objectively coercive
then ordered the Clerk to "[d]emonstrate through
specific evidence, case law, and/or legal argument why the
[Clerk's] affidavits constitute clear and convincing
evidence of fraud or coercion, and/or provide clear and
convincing evidence that [the Union] attempted to or actually
did obtain support for its campaign through fraud or
13 The Clerk timely responded to the ALJ's order to show
cause. In its response, the Clerk attached two additional
affidavits, apparently from two of the unidentified employees
referenced in Polydoris's affidavit.
14 Jeanette Halle, an employee of the Clerk, averred that, on
a Saturday afternoon, a Union representative came to her home
but was not allowed past her building's security door.
The representative kept Halle in conversation for 20 to 30
minutes. Halle averred that the representative was
condescending and insulted her intelligence. The
representative tried to get Halle to agree with complaints
that other employees had purportedly made. The representative
claimed to Halle that "everyone" was unhappy in
working for the Clerk. Halle averred that, every time she
made positive comments, "he tried to convince me
otherwise." According to Halle, the representative
"claimed that joining the union would result in better
salaries, better raises and better vacation benefits."
The representative also claimed that, after the Union had
bargained with the Clerk, Halle's raise would cover the
monthly dues to be paid to the Union. Finally, Halle
concluded that the representative "appeared to be
attempting to use peer pressure and insults to induce [her]
into joining the union."
15 Sandra Lucio, also an employee of the Clerk, averred that
two different Union representatives "kept coming to
[her] house twice a week" between 7 and 8 p.m. Lucio
would not open the door for the representatives. She further
reported that "[t]hey were parking away from [her] house
and [she] could not see their car, which made [her] even more
uncomfortable." Lucio, who was a single mother working
two jobs and whose child was frequently home alone in the
evenings, became frightened by the representatives'
conduct, so she filed a police report. Lucio further
recounted that, "[a]fter [she] filed the report, [she]
was getting [her] garbage cans from the street when [a Union]
representative approached [her]. They [sic] appeared
to know [her] schedule and [she] was concerned that they
[sic] were watching [her] house and tracking [her
schedule]." Lucio averred that she was upset that the
Union representatives had her personal information and her
home address. Lucio also believed that, if her coworkers
became aware that she had reported the representatives'
conduct, her coworkers would "make [her] life miserable
every day at work."
16 Notably, neither Halle nor Lucio indicated that she had
signed a dues-deduction card, despite the fraudulent or
coercive blandishments of the Union representatives.
Likewise, Ventura similarly did not indicate that she had
signed a dues-deduction card, despite her complaints of being
pressured to do so.
17 On April 28, 2015, the ALJ issued her recommended decision
and order. Pertinent to our decision, the ALJ analyzed the
Clerk's fraud-and-coercion argument:
"The [Clerk] argues that the Union used fraud and
coercion to obtain support for its organizing campaign. The
Act states that the Board will certify a union as the
exclusive representative of a unit of employees if the union
'demonstrates a showing of majority interest.' 5 ILCS
315/9(a-5) [(West 2014)]. However, if an employer provides
the Board with 'clear and convincing evidence that the
dues deduction authorizations, and other evidence upon which
the Board would otherwise rely to ascertain the
employees' choice of representative, are fraudulent or
were obtained through coercion, the Board shall promptly
thereafter conduct an election.' Id. The
Board's rules further specify that:
'[a]ll employers served with a majority interest petition
shall file a written response to the petition within 14 days
after service of the petition. The response filed shall set
forth the party's position with respect to the matters
asserted in the petition, including, but not limited to, the
appropriateness of the bargaining unit and, to the extent
known, whether any employees sought by petitioner to be
included should be excluded from the unit. The
employer must also provide at this time
clear and convincing evidence of any alleged fraud or
coercion in obtaining majority
support.' 80 Ill. Adm. Code §
1210.100(b)(3) [(2004)] (emphasis added [by the ALJ]).
If the employer provides 'evidence demonstrating a
material issue of fact or law relating to fraud or coercion,
' the board will conduct a hearing. [80 Ill. Adm. Code]
1210.100(b)(5)(B) [(2004)]. However, if the employer fails to
provide sufficient evidence of fraud or coercion, 'the
Board will certify the union as the unit's exclusive
representative if it is determined to have majority
support.' [80 Ill. Adm. Code] 1210.100(b)(5)(A) [(2004)].
In coercion cases, the Board applies 'an objective
standard to determine whether, from the standpoint of the
employee, the challenged conduct would reasonably have a
coercive effect.' Vill. of Barrington Hills (Police
Dep't), 26 PERI ¶ 59 (IL LRB-SP 2010)
[sic]. For example, in Vill. of Barrington Hills
(Police Dep't) [sic], the Board agreed with
the Executive Director's decision to apply an objective
standard, as well as with his determination that the
challenged conduct would not have reasonably coerced
employees. Id. In support of its argument, the
village submitted two affidavits from village supervisors.
Id. The supervisors described their conversations
with several employees regarding the union's conduct.
Id. First, the Board found that the village's
evidence did not establish that employees had been threatened
or that the employees' fears of being retaliated against
were reasonable. Id. More specifically, the village
had not presented 'evidence of actual retaliation, for
example, or even of threatened retaliation.' Id.
The Board also noted that the affidavits constituted hearsay
evidence and '[t]he statutory standard call[ed] for
"clear and convincing" evidence of fraud or
coercion.' Id. As such, the Board agreed
'that the evidence the [v]illage presented here falls far
short of meeting the "clear and convincing"
statutory standard.' Id.
In this case, the [Clerk] argues that the Union used fraud
and coercion during its organizing drive. With regard to its
fraud argument, the [Clerk] first contends that the Union
provided fraudulent information to employees. In one
instance, a Union representative told an employee that she
would receive better benefits under Union representation and
that her dues would be covered by her first contract raise.
According to another employee, a representative said she
would not have to pay dues. As an initial matter, I note that
the representative's statement that an employee would not
have to pay dues is hearsay from an unidentified source and
not generally considered clear and convincing evidence.
Regardless, I do not find this evidence sufficient to
conclude the Union gave employees fraudulent information.
While I may find the Union's statements odd, I cannot say
they are necessarily false. The Act does not require
bargaining unit members to pay dues, and the [Clerk] has not
supplied any other evidence on the matter. Further, it is
permissible under the Act for a union to promote ...