Fire Union Commits ULP By Failing To Give Negotiators Authority

The Tri-State Fire Protection District, Located in Illinois, is party to a collective bargaining agreement with Local 3165 of the IAFF. During the contract that ended in May 2012, insurance had been a major issue of contention for Local 3165 members.

At the first bargaining session for a new contract, Local 3165 suggested that the parties have their respective attorneys review any proposed tentative agreements before they were signed. The District disagreed and insisted that both parties have present at every session people with authority to tentatively agree to proposals. Eventually, the parties agreed that Local 3165’s suggestion would not be included in the ground rules.

When bargaining proceeded very haltingly, the District filed an unfair labor practice charge against Local 3165, alleging that it failed to bargain in good faith by failing to bring to the table negotiators with the authority to reach an agreement. The Illinois Court of Appeals agreed with the District.

The Court cited the fact that “Local 3165’s counsel sent the District’s counsel an email in which she stated that Local 3165 would sign the ground rules (to which the parties had agreed long before), but that it would do so only with ‘understandings,’ including that Local 3165 would not tentatively agree to any proposal until she reviewed it first. However, Local 3165’s attorney then failed to appear at any of the subsequent bargaining sessions until the District filed its unfair labor practice charge. This included five sessions, essentially spanning the entire six-month period at issue.

“Clearly, then, Local 3165’s bargaining team was inherently ineffective from the start as, by its own operation, and without its attorney present, it could not, and admittedly would not, agree to any proposal during these bargaining sessions. This is further confirmed by the actions of Local 3165’s own president. For example, at one bargaining session, which was only the parties’ second session, the District pointed out that Local 3165’s email contradicted the parties’ oral agreement reached at their first session that those with authority to enter into tentative agreements on their behalf be present at each session. The District asked whether Local 3165’s team could make such agreements at the sessions, to which a union negotiator responded that it could do so as to ‘easy’ items, but nothing more. Then, after an argument ensued, the negotiator revoked even that minimal offering, telling the District that Local 3165 would not tentatively agree on anything, thereby ending that discussion.

“Later, in a clear effort to offer an olive branch, offered to tentatively agree to one of Local 3165’s own proposals, which merely amounted to moving a single sentence in the contract regarding layoffs from one section to another. There was no debate or suggested change in form or substance on the part of the District at all, simply, just an outright acceptance of the proposal Local 3165 itself had made during the prior session. Local 3165, however, refused to agree, stating it wanted see the District’s proposal in its entirety – a proposal that had nothing to do with this one sentence in the contract.

“The record is clear that Local 3165 routinely ignored the District’s persistent attempts to schedule session dates and accommodate its team members, canceled multiple scheduled sessions (many without explanation), rarely proposed alternative meeting dates choosing instead to wait passively until they were offered, and never attempted to make its team members more readily available. In our view, this evinces a lack of intent to fulfill its duty under the Act to meet at reasonable times and, thus, to negotiate in good faith.

“We find that Local 3165 engaged in bad faith bargaining by failing to invest its team members with sufficient authority to negotiate and by failing to agree to proposed bargaining dates, thereby committing unfair labor practices in violation of the state collective bargaining law.”

Tri-State Professional Firefighters Union v. Illinois LRB, 32 PERI ¶ 99 (Ill. App. 2015)