The Illinois FOP Labor Council

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By John Roche, Attorney - Wednesday, February 6, 2013


            The IFOP Labor Council represents the patrol deputies employed by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.  One of several responsibilities of the patrol deputies is to patrol the MetroLink commuter trains which run through St. Clair County.  This assignment had been the sole responsibility of the patrol deputies since 2001.  Patrol deputies assigned to the MetroLink first clocked in at a Sheriff’s Department substation then reported to the rail line.  The patrol deputies were then required to be physically present in one of three rail zones.  About 80% of the patrol deputies’ time in this assignment was spent on the trains, and they were required to provide roving patrol duties, handle calls, issue citations and provide assistance to riders. The other 20% of their time was typically spent relieving other patrol officers, patrolling the parking lots, or transporting offenders or engaging in other patrol duties. 

            The FOP Labor Council had been negotiating a successor collective bargaining agreement on behalf of the patrol deputies.  During these negotiations, the Sheriff’s Department proposed a two-tiered system for new hires assigned to the MetroLink.  The new hires for the MetroLink under the Sheriff’s proposal would perform essentially the same duties as the patrol deputies in that assignment but would receive significantly less pay and benefits.  The Union rejected this proposal. 

            The parties proceeded to mediation and were unable to reach agreement and, therefore, proceeded to interest arbitration.  Under the Labor Act, the employer is required to maintain the status quo after the commencement of arbitration proceedings until the issue is resolved.  Instead, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department unilaterally created and implemented a new MetroLink position and hired individuals to fill that position at much lower wages and benefits.  It did not present this as an open issue in the upcoming interest arbitration.  The FOP Labor Council filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board alleging, among other things, that the Employers violated the Labor Act by unilaterally creating the new position with lower wages and benefits and hiring employees to fill the position to perform bargaining unit work.  

            The Labor Board issued a Complaint for Hearing, and a hearing was conducted before an Administrative Law Judge.  That Judge found that “:a decision to transfer work out of the bargaining unit to non-bargaining unit personnel is a mandatory subject of bargaining because it affects the wages, hours, and working conditions of the original unit.”  Recommended Decision and Award, p. 14, , citing County of Cook and Cook County Sheriff, 12 PERI ¶3021 (IL LLRB 1996); Soule Glass and Glazing Co. V. National Labor Relations Board, 652 F.2d 1055 (1st Cir. 1981).  Here, the Employer’s decision resulted in a loss of bargaining unit work and/or the opportunity to perform more of that work.  This action violates the Labor Act even if the Employer’s decision did not eliminate bargaining unit positions since it nevertheless eroded this work.  The Administrative Law Judge found that the Sheriff and the County violated the Labor Act by changing the existing wages, hours, and other conditions of employment of its patrol deputies during the pendency of an interest arbitration and, by so doing, failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the FOP Labor Council.  The Administrative Law Judge ordered the County and Sheriff’s Department to, among other things, “cease from creating this new position, rescind its unilateral changes, make whole any employees in the bargaining unit … for all losses incurred as a result of any changes made [in creating the new MetroLink assignment], including back pay plus interest.”  Recommended Decision and Order, p. 24.    

            The County and Sheriff appealed this decision to the Labor Board and the Labor Board completely rejected the Employers’ argument and accepted the Administrative Law Judge’s decision in its entirety.  The County and Sheriff then appealed this decision to the Illinois Appellate Court, 5th District.  Similarly, the Appellate Court rejected the Employers’ arguments and affirmed the findings, conclusions and remedy of the Administrative Law Judge and the Labor Board.  The County and the Sheriff then filed a Petition for Leave to Appeal the Appellate Court’s decision with the Illinois Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court denied this Petition. 

            This case should be an important reminder to employers that it must bargain with the Union over mandatory subjects of bargaining and it violates the law by implementing changes without completing the bargaining process.  This case should also be a reminder that the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council will aggressively enforce these rights on behalf of its members.

[Note about the author.  John R. Roche, Jr. is a senior attorney with the Illinois Fraternal of Police Labor Council.  He has his B.A. from Southern Illinois University; his Masters’ Degree in Industrial Relations from Loyola University of Chicago; and his law degree from the IIT-Chicago Kent.  Prior to joining the Labor Council, he was a Business Agent for the United Food and Commercial Works, a Board Agent for the Illinois Local Labor Relations Board and an attorney for the City of Chicago’s Corporation Council’s office.  He is a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.]