Metro-East News

July 31, 2014

State labor board: St. Clair Township violated contract negotiation process

A state board said this week that St. Clair Township violated fair labor practices in its contract negotiations with six sewer and clerical union workers.

The Illinois Labor Relations Board issued a complaint Monday for a hearing that said the township violated parts of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act by:

*Submitting a last, best final offer to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 148 about Jan. 10 even though the union members did not agree the parties were at impasse.

*Declaring an impasse and submitting a second last, best final offer to union members about Feb. 6 even though employees did not agree the parties were at impasse.

*And, implementing provisions from its Feb. 6 offer about March 17.

According to state statute, unfair labor practices include the employer refusing to bargain collectively in good faith.

The township has 15 days to respond to the state Labor Relations Board.

A date for the hearing before an administrative law judge has not been set.

St. Clair Township Supervisor Dave Barnes Sr. said he believes the township bargained in good faith with employees.

"I believe firmly that we were in the right and we'll go ahead and stand our ground... and I believe we'll be vindicated," Barnes said. "We repeatedly expressed to the union we would meet to discuss any proposals but the union hasn't brought any proposals forward."

The township is represented by The Lowenbaum Partnership. The law firm issued a statement on Thursday: "The complaint for hearing... is simply the method used by the (Labor Relations Board) for enabling the union to present its case before an administrative law judge. While the township respectfully disagrees with the executive director's issuance of the complaint, it looks forward to defending its position before a judge."

Union employees say they shared proposals with Barnes and other township officials and never heard back. Employees then received letters about the impasse.

The township's sewer and clerical workers say they are working now without a contract and object to the new provisions, which include: cuts to health care; changes to sick and holiday leave policies; and pay increases for the three male sewer employees without increases for three female clerical workers.

The previous contract was effective from May 12, 2009, to Dec. 31.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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