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Skokie Firefighters Union, Local v. Illinois Labor Relations Board

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

December 5, 2016

SKOKIE FIREFIGHTERS UNION, LOCAL, Petitioner,
v.
THE ILLINOIS LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, STATE PANEL; JOHN HARTNETT, JOHN SAMOLIS, KEITH SNYDER, MICHAEL COLI, and ALBERT WASHINGTON, the Members of Said Board and Panel in Their Official Capacity Only; MELISSA MLYNSKI, Executive Director of Said Panel in Her Official Capacity Only; and THE VILLAGE OF SKOKIE, Respondents.

         Petition for administrative review of a decision and order of the Illinois Labor Relations Board, State Panel Illinois Labor Relations Board Case No. S-CA-14-053

          SIMON JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Connors and Justice Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SIMON JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 This review action stems from collective bargaining negotiations between the Skokie Firefighters Union (Union) and the Village of Skokie (Village). While under the 2009-2010 collective bargaining agreement, the parties were working to formulate the successor agreement, the 2010-2014 agreement. Negotiation and mediation for the 2010-2014 agreement failed to result in compromise, so the Union invoked compulsory arbitration under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Labor Relations Act) (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 2012)). The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Village, meaning that the provisions regarding promotions as set forth in the 2009-2010 agreement remained in effect for the 2010-2014 agreement. The Union filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Village. The Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB) dismissed the complaint on the Village's motion, finding that the Village did not breach its duty to bargain in good faith. This review followed. We reverse the Board's decision and remand the cause to the ILRB with directions to enter an order that the Village engaged in an unfair labor practice.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In June 2010, the Union and the Village were negotiating an agreement to succeed their 2009-2010 collective bargaining agreement. The parties could not agree on certain material terms. The Labor Relations Act grants public employees the right to organize, but it prohibits firefighters, among others, from striking. 5 ILCS 315/2 (West 2012). Instead, the Labor Relations Act gives those employees a procedure to assert their grievances, engage in negotiation and mediation, and, if no compromise can be reached, to compel arbitration. 5 ILCS 315/14 (West 2012). In this case, negotiation and mediation failed, and the Union invoked compulsory interest arbitration.

         ¶ 4 Relevant to this review, the Union wanted changes to Article XXI of the agreement-the article that sets forth the requirements and procedures for a firefighter to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant. The Union wanted the collective bargaining agreement to contain some of the standards set forth in the Fire Department Promotion Act (Promotion Act) (50 ILCS 742/1 et seq. (West 2012)) along with other modifications. In the 2009-2010 agreement, the Union and the Village had agreed to different terms for promotions to lieutenant than those set forth in the Promotion Act.

         ¶ 5 Prior to the arbitration hearing, the parties exchanged settlement offers. In an offer dated August 21, 2013, the Union detailed the changes it wanted regarding the standards and procedures for promotions to lieutenant. The offer was made before the deadline for final prehearing offers, but at the arbitration hearing, the Village objected to the arbitrator considering the Union's offer, contending that the offer was beyond the scope of the parties' prearbitration negotiations and that it was submitted too late. The Village did not respond with a prehearing counteroffer on the issue. The parties still dispute the ramifications of their respective prearbitration conduct.

         ¶ 6 Another issue is whether the promotion standards are mandatory or permissive subjects of bargaining. Mandatory subjects of bargaining are those matters that neither party can refuse to negotiate. Village of Oak Lawn v. Illinois Labor Relations Bd., State Panel, 2011 IL App (1st) 103417, ¶ 14. If an agreement cannot be reached, impassed mandatory subjects must be decided by the arbitrator. Town of Cicero v. Illinois Association of Firefighters, IAFF Local 717 AFL-CIO, CLC, 338 Ill.App.3d 364, 370 (2003). On the other hand, permissive subjects of bargaining are terms that the parties are not required to negotiate, but if one side proposes negotiation on those matters, the other side may voluntarily negotiate. Lid Elec., Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 134, 362 F.3d 940, 943 (7th Cir. 2004). A party cannot insist on bargaining over a permissive subject to the point of impasse and negotiation can be cut off at any time without recourse. See Board of Trustees of University of Illinois v. Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, 244 Ill.App.3d 945, 949 (1993). Permissive subjects of bargaining are not to be decided by the arbitrator. 5 ILCS 315/14(h) (West 2012); 80 Ill. Adm. Code 1230.90(k), amended at 27 Ill. Reg. 7456 (eff. May 1, 2003).

         ¶ 7 At the arbitration hearing, the Union maintained that the promotion standards are permissive subjects of bargaining. In the past, the Union had agreed to terms other than those in the Promotion Act and, thus, waived their statutory rights. This time, the Union insisted on its statutory rights, and it argued that the arbitrator could not order the parties to maintain the status quo under the 2009-2010 agreement because it would be ordering the Union to accept terms that were permissive subjects of bargaining that it was free to not accept. The Village, on the other hand, argued that the promotion standards were not properly before the arbitrator because they were not bargained for before arbitration.

         ¶ 8 The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Village. The arbitrator decided that the promotion system was not broken so there was no reason for him to change the system that had been in place in the previous collective bargaining agreements. The arbitrator did not make any finding regarding the Village's argument that the arbitrator lacked jurisdiction to decide the issue because the Union did not raise the issue of promotion standards during negotiations. Instead, the arbitrator simply decided that the status quo should maintain.

         ¶ 9 After the arbitrator's ruling, the Union filed an unfair labor practice claim with the ILRB. The Village filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The ILRB dismissed the complaint, ruling that the Village's submission of a permissive subject of bargaining to the arbitrator did not amount to an unfair labor practice. The Union petitioned for administrative review. ¶ 10 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 When an administrative agency's decision involves a pure question of law, we review it de novo. Carpetland U.S.A., Inc. v. Illinois Department of Employment Security, 201 Ill.2d 351, 369 (2002). When reviewing purely factual findings, the agency's findings and conclusions are deemed to be prima facie true and correct and, thus, are reviewed under a manifest weight of the evidence standard. 735 ILCS 5/3-110 (West 2012). Under some circumstances, however, the issue presented cannot be accurately characterized as either a pure question of fact or a pure question of law and, therefore, will be treated as a mixed question, subject to an intermediate standard of review. Carpetland U.S.A, 201 Ill.2d at 369.

         ¶ 12 Here, there is no dispute over facts. The arbitrator and the ILRB made no findings of fact. The ILRB dismissed the Union's complaint on the basis that there were no issues of fact and that the Union's charge was insufficient as a matter of law, so de novo review is appropriate. However, insofar as the case concerns a statute that the agency is charged with administering, we accord the agency's ...


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