Illinois Labor Relations Board Upholds Peoria Fire Dept. "Brownout" Ruling

Aug 18, 2019

The Illinois Labor Relations Board has upheld a summary ruling against the city of Peoria earlier this year which restricts the "brownout" of fire department engines.

In February 2019, Administrative Law Judge Matthew Nagy summarily ruled in favor of International Association of Firefighters Local 50, the union representing Peoria's firefighters, after the city failed to respond to an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the union.

The union said the city refused to provide a signed copy of a memorandum of understanding it was using to justify the "brownout" policy, which took machines out of service on certain days in a cost-cutting measure. The union said it had made other consessions with the understanding all machines would remain in service.

The city claimed the decision was issued by Nagy without "notice or participation" by the city, and said the substantial cost to taxpayers imposed by suspending the brownouts was prejudicial. It requested a variance.

But earlier this month, the Illinois Labor Relations Board disagreed. The board provided a timeline of the the communications between the ILRB and the city of Peoria, saying the city had multiple opportunities to respond and take part in the investigation of the allegations, but failed to do so.

The city said the initial notice was mailed to the wrong address, and claimed it was likely mailed to the wrong address again when re-mailed in January 2019. The city did not respond to an order to show cause it didn't receive the second mailed notice, and it did not comment on whether or not it received e-mailed notices, the ILRB found.

Indeed, the City’s lack of activity in the investigation of the charge, a charge which the City clearly had notice of, belies its contention that allowing the default to stand would come at a substantial cost to taxpayers. If this case was so significant to the City and its residents, it stands to reason that the City would have been more vigilant during the investigation and in responding to communications from the Board. - ILRB ruling

The ILRB upheld Nagy's order to revert to the pre-brownout status quo, reimburse impacted employees with back pay, and head back to the bargaining table.

The city can now take the case to an appellate court, if it so chooses.