Judge sides with Ill. fire union, suggests restoring rescue squads
An administrative law judge recommended nearly a dozen firefighters be reinstated and the two rescue trucks taken off line last year be reinstated
Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.
PEORIA, Ill. — A clerical error could cost the city of Peoria upwards of $500,000 after an administrative law judge recommended nearly a dozen firefighters be reinstated and the two rescue trucks taken off line last year be reinstated.
And while those changes would be substantial, neither Peoria Firefighters Union Local 50 nor City Hall believe the recommendation, handed down in late February, is the final say on the matter. In fact, Peoria City Attorney Don Liest says the reasoning behind the decision was a clerical error — the city never responded to the unfair labor practice accusations from the union that sparked the case because the complaint and other documents were sent to an attorney's old place of employment.
But, on the surface, the Feb. 27 ruling by Matthew Nagy seems to be a total win for the union as it orders the city to:
- restore the staffing levels of the Peoria Fire Department to levels it was before May 21, 2018, when a series of "brown-outs" were instated to help with budgetary issues.
- compensate those who lost income by offering back pay to those who were eligible to work on the rescue squads.
- resume bargaining with the local over staffing and work conditions.
Ryan Brady, the local's president, hailed the decision.
"While this has been a lengthy process, it is a landmark decision for the 190-plus professional firefighters in Peoria. I fully anticipate the city appealing this decision to the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The administrative law judge's decision codifies why it is important to abide by the language outlined in the collective bargaining agreement and follow the rules," he said.
Liest, on the other hand, said the case is far from other and said the city will, in essence, appeal and tell the state Labor Relations Board what it thinks the hearing officer got wrong. The ILRB will likely hear the case sometime later this year.
"I don't think it is likely that this will be upheld," he said.
The union filed its complaint last summer in the wake of "brown-outs" that were ordered by City Hall to help close a budgetary shortfall. Local 50 cried foul and said the brown-outs were an unfair labor practice in the wake of an agreement they had reached in late 2017 that eliminated some unfilled positions in return for keeping the fire apparatus online.
©2019 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)