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Judge finds Algonquin Township Road District violated Illinois Public Labor Relations Act

Woodstock-based attorney Robert Hanlon (left) and Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser attend an Algonquin Township Board meeting June 14, 2017 in Crystal Lake.
Woodstock-based attorney Robert Hanlon (left) and Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser attend an Algonquin Township Board meeting June 14, 2017 in Crystal Lake.

An administrative law judge found that the Algonquin Township Road District violated the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act when it repudiated its collective bargaining agreement with International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

The road district repudiated this collective bargaining agreement with the union because of three grievances it filed.

These grievances were filed by Local 150 over the Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser's firing of Andrew Rosencrans, former road district foreman Derek Lee and former McHenry County Board member Nick Chirikos. Gasser fired these three employees shortly after taking his oath of office in May 2017, and Local 150 reported these terminations to the labor board.

Administrative Law Judge Sharon Purcell, on behalf of the Illinois Labor Relations Board state panel, wrote Wednesday that the road district is now ordered to "cease and desist" from failing to bargain in good faith with Local 150.

In addition, Purcell wrote, the road district now needs to bargain collectively in good faith with Local 150, and "make whole" all employees covered by the parties' collective bargaining agreement for losses incurred because of the violation by the Road District. This includes lost wages and benefits, along with interest.

Purcell decided that the road district needs to reimburse the union for its costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

The road district has 20 days to tell the Illinois Labor Relations Board what steps they have taken to comply with these measures.

According to the administrative law judge's decision, the union also sought sanctions against the road district and its counsel, Woodstock-based lawyer Rob Hanlon.

Local 150 requested sanctions as it said that several of the denials the road district made in its answers to its allegations are "untrue and made without reasonable cause." These include the road district's denial that it is a public employer, its denial that the labor board has jurisdiction over the union's unfair labor practice charge and the denial that Gasser fired three bargaining unit members, among others.

In her decision, Purcell granted these sanctions as she said its defenses were not made in good faith and did not represent a 'debatable' position." She added that the road district made these denials without reasonable cause, and they were found to be untrue.

Purcell said it can be safely said that the road district "made no effort" to truthfully answer the allegations.

"At hearing, the Road District tried to cast the allegations as either too hyper-technical or too poorly drawn for Gasser to understand and accurately answer," Purcell wrote.

In one instance at the hearing, Gasser stated that he did not think Local 150 was the exclusive representative of road district employees because he hired non-union employees and he dealt directly with the employees, instead of the union. However, Purcell wrote that Gasser also admitted to making no effort to learn if Local 150 was the certified exclusive representative of the bargaining unit.

Though Gasser testified that he denied firing the three union members because he did not know if they are in the bargaining unit, Purcell wrote that he did not make any effort to learn if they were or not.

"There is no cogent explanation for the denial that the grievances were not settled at the lower levels of the grievance procedure when, clearly, the Union has requested their arbitration," Purcell said.

Gasser could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hanlon said in a phone call that he had "no comment."

Both parties can file exceptions to Purcell's recommended decision and order within 30 days.

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