Three Oak Lawn Firefighters and their union are once again celebrating a Cook County Judge’s decision to issue a judgment that the village cannot force union members living in Indiana to move into Illinois.
The contentious battle between organized labor and Mayor Sandra Bury’s administration culminated in the Oak Lawn Firefighters’ union filing a lawsuit almost a year to the date of judgment in Cook County Circuit Court after the administration notified the union of proposed contract language.
The administration exchanged final offers with the union on June 1, 2016 and at that time notified the union that it intended to include a new provision in its labor contract addressing “residency” that states:
All bargaining unit members hired before the issuance of Arbitrator Bierig’s award are required to establish residency within the State of Illinois within six months of the issuance of his decision. All bargaining unit members hired on or after the issuance of the Arbitrator bierig’s award are required to establish residency within (50) miles of Village Hall….within six months…
The union’s lawsuit sought an order from the court that states that the village is “precluded from imposing residency requirements on bargaining unit employees hired prior to the Arbitrator’s award”.
The union had cited Illinois State Statutes that state that residency requirements cannot be made more restrictive for employees after they are already serving in the department. The union, in its filing, noted that the Village of Oak Lawn has not had a residency requirement on any of the current employees and therefore any new rule would be “more restrictive” and in violation of Illinois Law and “contrary to its authority under the Illinois Constitution”.
In addition to the union, the named plaintiffs are Fire Captain William Roser, Engineer Timothy Radke, and Firefighter/Paramedic Todd Stanford.
Roser has served the village since April of 1992 and has lived in Munster, Indiana for 24 years in a home he owns. Radke, has served the village since May of 1993 and has lived in Munster, Indiana in a home he owns for the past 21 years. Stanford has served the village since May of 1997 and has lived in Crown Point, Indiana in a home he has owned for the past 19 years.
Under the Village of Oak Lawn’s proposal, those employees would have to sell their homes and move back into the State of Illinois. The village has the right to answer the allegations or make a motion to dismiss the complaint within 28 days of service. Village officials are expected to discuss the lawsuit in executive session tonight.
The village relied on the same arguments it had made before the Illinois Labor Relations Board Arbitrator who ruled that the Village of Oak Lawn could talk with the union representing its firefighters about establishing a rule requiring the village’s firefighters to live within 50 miles of Oak Lawn. At the time of the Arbitrator’s decision, several firefighters privately expressed confidence that the court would overrule the arbitrator.
The Village of Oak Lawn Board of Trustees could vote to appeal the decision to the Illinois Appellate Court. In some cases, the homes in Indiana may be closer in traveling time to the Village of Oak Lawn than where other firefighters in the department live.