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Chicago Transit Authority v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

June 15, 2018

THE CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 308, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 16 CH 11310 Honorable David B. Atkins, Judge, presiding. No. 17 CH 717 Honorable Neil H. Cohen, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE LAMPKIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.Presiding Justice Reyes and Justice Rochford concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          LAMPKIN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Two arbitration awards issued in 2016 found that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) had violated its collective bargaining agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 (ATU) when the CTA unilaterally implemented rules that directly affected certain rights of the workers concerning their schedule choices and work hours. Thereafter, the circuit court denied the CTA's petitions to vacate the arbitration awards.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, the CTA argues that the arbitration awards should be vacated because (1) they are contrary to the well-established Illinois public policy requiring the CTA to provide safe mass transportation to the riding public or (2) the arbitrators usurped the CTA's nondelegable statutory right and duty to provide safe mass transportation to the riding public.

         ¶ 3 For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgments of the circuit court that affirmed the arbitration awards.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 This appeal arises from a dispute between the CTA and the ATU over the CTA's unilateral implementation of several new rules following the 2014 derailment of a CTA train at the end of the Blue Line at the station at O'Hare International Airport. Specifically, the train, which was operated by an employee represented by the ATU, overran the bumper at the O'Hare station and partially ascended the escalator leading to the airport. Approximately 30 people claimed injuries. The CTA concluded that operator fatigue caused the derailment and implemented several operational changes to enhance the overall safety of the CTA's customers and employees. However, the ATU argued that these unilateral operational changes violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement, and it filed grievances and an unfair labor practice charge against the CTA. Two separate arbitration proceedings addressed the unilateral changes imposed by the CTA.

         ¶ 6 In the first arbitration proceeding, the arbitrator heard the grievances concerning whether the CTA had violated the collective bargaining agreement by, inter alia, (1) requiring a minimum of 10 hours of rest time between shifts for both "picked" and "extra board" work, (2) requiring full-time temporary flaggers (FTTFs) who were qualified to operate trains to pick 32 hours of motor runs per week, and (3) limiting FTTFs and rapid transit operators (RTOs) in their first 12 months of employment to a maximum of 32 hours per week of train operation.

         ¶ 7 The arbitrator issued an award in June 2016 sustaining the grievances in part and denying the grievances in part. The arbitrator found that, despite the CTA's compelling interest in enhancing operational safety, the CTA had violated specific obligations contained in the plain terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Specifically, when the CTA unilaterally increased the minimum time off between shifts from 8 to 10 hours, this change had a major impact on employees' substantive rights to pick any shift or shifts as long as they had 8 hours between work days. Furthermore, by requiring the FTTFs qualified to operate trains to pick 32 hours of motor runs per week, the CTA had infringed on a contractually protected right that "picking" was to be done by seniority. Finally, by limiting first-year RTOs to 32 hours of train operation per week, the CTA had infringed on their right to exercise their seniority and pick their work assignments and schedules. The arbitrator ordered the CTA to cease and desist enforcement of the rules found to be in violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

         ¶ 8 The CTA filed a petition to vacate this arbitration award, and the ATU filed a cross-petition to affirm the award. In March 2017, the circuit court confirmed the arbitration award and entered judgment in favor of the ATU.

         ¶ 9 Meanwhile, in the second arbitration proceeding, another arbitrator heard grievances concerning whether the CTA violated the collective bargaining agreement by (1) limiting rail operations employees to 12 hours of work a day in any 14-hour period and (2) requiring that all rail operations employees work no more than six days within any consecutive seven-day period.

         ¶ 10 The arbitrator issued an award in October 2016 sustaining the grievances in part and denying the grievances in part. The arbitrator found that the CTA's rule limiting rail operations employees to 12 hours of work a day in any 14-hour period was a clear breach of the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator recognized that the CTA had a compelling interest to enhance safety and that the rule was a reasonable attempt to advance this interest; however, the arbitrator concluded that the rule violated the plain language of the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator found that the CTA was required to negotiate this change and ordered the CTA to rescind the rule and make all affected employees whole. The matter was remanded to the parties to determine the appropriate remedy.

         ¶ 11 The CTA filed a petition to vacate this arbitration award, and the ATU filed a cross-petition to affirm the award. In July 2017, the circuit court confirmed ...


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