The Illinois FOP Labor Council

The Labor Council provides full union representation: negotiating and enforcing contracts, improving salaries, working conditions, and benefits for law enforcement professionals throughout Illinois. Our members are protected 24 hours a day by a staff of full-time, in-house attorneys and field representatives who have a proven track record of winning.

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By Rob Scott, Attorney - Monday, February 4, 2013

 

If you are familiar with the saying about someone cutting off their nose to spite their face then you will understand what the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council has to deal with in representing the hardworking officers of the East St. Louis police department.  As an attorney who has worked with the Labor Council for almost ten years, I can honestly say that I don’t believe my patience has been tried so often by so few in any other work related situation.  In case you think I am exaggerating, I will share with you just a limited history that the Labor Council has with this Employer. 

I don’t have to reach back more than a few years to make my point, starting with the case of Officer S.  Officer S. suffered an injury that necessitated her being off work.  Despite what her doctor said, the Chief fired her for being absent without excuse, specifically claiming that she had failed to return to work. His plan quickly unraveled at the grievance hearing.  The Labor Council produced a very honest and compelling witness who happened to be in charge of tracking the hours worked for all officers.  The witness testified that she was instructed by the Chief to change the status of Officer S. from injured on duty to no show no call.  The records person refused to make the change so the Chief changed them himself but only after the clerk made him initial each change that he made.  Needless to say, the Arbitrator considered the testimony and the records to be fairly compelling evidence.  While I like to think the case was won by brilliant lawyering , in retrospect,  I would have to chalk it up to a record clerk’s integrity.  This case cost the City approximately $29,000.00.

That misstep was a pittance compared to a more recent one.  Officer E. was injured in an automobile accident while driving a squad car.  The officer suffered extensive injuries and was off work for an extended period of time, more than a year.  As the matter dragged on the Chief eventually terminated the officer for failing to return to work.  In working up the case for the Labor Council, I became more and more confident in our ability to prevail.  I was so confident that I expected a reasonable offer would come from the Employer at any time.  Well, days turned into weeks and weeks into months and still no offer.  As the grievance arbitration approached I became more and more curious as to why we had not gotten a reasonable offer. I finally called the Employer’s very capable attorney to question him on what they were thinking.  The attorney seemed a little surprised at my confidence and indicated that they had the Chief all lined up to testify on the matter.  At this point I thought long and hard and out of respect for this attorney asked him if he had seen a particular email.  You see, through a thorough review of the documentary evidence, the Labor Council was able to obtain a simple one page email from another city attorney from the same firm to Officer E. indicating that she was relieved from duty and was not to return until instructed to do so by the Chief.  This was the smoking gun that showed that the officer was wholly appropriate in having not come to work as that officer had never been instructed to do so by the Chief.  While I hoped that this dagger to the heart of the Employer’s case would result in a speedy resolution, the Employer made no offers and the matter had to be litigated.  This eventually resulted in an award of just under $170,000.00 for the officer, before taxes of course.

            The Labor Council’s success in defeating the Employer isn’t limited to grievance arbitrations.  Currently, the Labor Council is litigating over wages owed for 2011.  The parties were unable to come to a successor agreement for 2009 through 2011.  The Employer for the third time in as many interest arbitrations claimed an inability to pay. The third time was not the charm and the Employer lost its third successive interest arbitration.  The Employer failed to appeal the award and after 90 days the Labor Council went to Circuit Court to seek enforcement of the award.  At the trial level, the Labor Council was successful and defended against a Motion to Reconsider by the Employer.  As it stands right now, it is 3-0 in favor of the Labor Council.  Unfortunately, this is not the end. The Labor Council has been informed the Employer intends to appeal to the Appellate Court.  It is clear they don’t want to pay this money; they even asked the members to forgo it as part of our negotiations for contract years 2012 through 2015.  However, coupled with across the board zeros being offered for the new contract years, the officers did not have to think about it very long.  It looks like we are on the road to another interest arbitration.

            Just recently, the Labor Council obtained two awards which found that the Employer clearly violated the collective bargaining agreement.  Despite what the collective bargaining agreement and State and Federal law say, the Employer took the position that it had the authority to provide only compensatory time for overtime and simply refused to provide the option of pay.  In a sound decision, this argument was squarely rejected by the Arbitrator.  Our members contractually have the right to choose and the Arbitrator affirmed that right.  The only remaining question will be the damages to be paid pursuant to the award.  However, those damages will certainly be less than the companion award issued by the same Arbitrator.  That award related to a change in the work schedule.  The Labor Council was forced to hold a grievance arbitration over the Employer’s unilateral implementation of Kelly days pursuant to a switch to a 12 hour schedule.  While this would normally be considered a mandatory subject of bargaining, none was needed as the contract clearly indicated the officers would be paid straight time.   The Arbitrator made short work of the issues relying upon the abundantly clear contract language.  The only matters left are the calculations and the collections. While it is unfortunate that the Employer will have to pay for work never received, they have made their proverbial bed and must now sleep in it.

            In a very brief fashion this catches you up to the work the Labor Council has been doing on behalf of our officers in East St. Louis.  Understand that it is only really the tip of the iceberg though; the Labor Council has probably received 80 to 100 grievances a year for the last three years related to this Employer.  In conclusion, please understand that this story isn’t designed to illicit any sort of sympathy for the Union.  What the Labor Council wants you to take from this is an understanding that we will always fight your fight for you, that we will be constant and that we will be untiring. These problems can go on year after year but so can your Union.  We will not shy away from a fight no matter how often you come to us and there is no limit to the amount of services or time that we will put into your issues. And more often than not we will win. 

Editor's Note:  Rob Scott did his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville and received his law degree from Southern Illinois University School of Law.  Rob has worked as an Assistant States Attorney and First Assistant Public Defender in Sangamon County Illinois and served three years as a Legal Counsel with the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee.  Mr. Scott has been with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council for 10 years.