By Bob Uphues
As election season begins to get serious in Brookfield, the village's administration has come under attack by the union representing its public works employees.
Prior to the village board's meeting on Feb. 13, 30 to 40 Teamsters gathered at the entrance to the village hall parking lot and at the corner of Brookfield and Arden avenues, handing out fliers claiming that the village is "issuing disciplinary write-ups and as a result, is receiving grievances, unfair labor practice charges and discrimination charges."
Asked to comment, Teamsters Local 705 Business Agent Mike Moore handed a reporter a press release and directed him to contact the union's general counsel Khris Parker.
The press release stated that "on Jan. 18, the Illinois Labor Relations Board found that Brookfield violated state law by targeting employees for participating union activities."
However, the Illinois Labor Relations Board's website contains no recent recommended decisions or orders and no mediation rulings related to Brookfield, and Village Manager Keith Sbiral said he wasn't sure what the union was referring to.
The Landmark obtained via a Freedom of Information request two documents sent by the labor board to Brookfield on Jan 18. Neither contains findings that the village violated any law.
One document partially dismissed an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the union in June 2016. The second was notification of a hearing regarding the remaining two counts of the June 2016 complaint before a labor board administrative law judge at an unspecified future date.
"Both parties have agreed to mediation in this matter," Sbiral said in an email.
Sbiral said that three public works employees have been written up and that some of the discipline came in the form of verbal warnings. The response from the union, he said, was to file eight grievances.
"If management can't give a verbal warning, we can't manage," Sbiral said.
In the meantime, both Sbiral and Public Works Director Kenneth Blaauw were literally targets of a flier discovered, according to Sbiral, by a village hall staff member inside the hallway connecting the village offices with the police department at the Brookfield Village Hall on Monday afternoon.
Sbiral said the staffer alerted him to the stack of fliers, which was headlined "Take out management" and featured the names of Sbiral and Blaauw in the crosshairs of a gun sight.
"Put us in charge and pay us more!" states the flier, which also bears the names of Brookfield's 18 public works employees and includes a Teamsters logo.
Sbiral said he didn't know who was responsible for the flier. Attempts to reach Roman Swierczynski, the union steward for Brookfield public works employees, were unsuccessful.
However, Roberto Garcia, who is running for village president this spring against incumbent Kit Ketchmark, made his first public appearance of the campaign season at the village board meeting.
Garcia asked about the union action outside the village hall and held up the "target" flier, accusing Sbiral of planting the fliers there himself.
"Earlier we saw Keith put these out there on the table and we were wondering why these were coming from the village," said Garcia, who added he could supply Ketchmark with video taken by someone showing Sbiral "bringing these out there from the back."
Sbiral bristled at the accusation, saying he grabbed the stack of fliers from the hallway and placed some on the table in the lobby of the village hall as he was reading one on the way back to his office.
"I probably should have thrown them away," Sbiral said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. "I was shocked."
Teamsters Union general counsel Khris Parker said the union nor its members were not responsible for the flier, adding that the union was conducting its own investigation to determine its origin.
"The flier is slanderous to our members, whose names were used on the flier without their permission, slanderous to the Teamsters Local 705 and the IBT as a whole, and a misuse of the IBT logo," Parker wrote in an email.
Meanwhile, a video of union agent Mike Moore reading the press release given to Landmark was posted to the Brookfield Connections Facebook page just prior to the start of the village board meeting by a woman named Jennifer Robles.
A check of their personal Facebook pages indicated that Robles and Garcia are in a relationship. Someone named Jennifer Robles also owns the Brookfield home that Garcia identified as his address on his election nominating petitions.
Calls to Garcia on Tuesday morning were not returned prior to press time.
The village's contract with public works employees expired Dec. 31, 2016 and negotiations on a new deal are in the early stages.
Ketchmark said the village and union representatives have had two negotiating sessions so far, and that the union has suggested about 50 changes to the contract. According to Sbiral, one of the changes sought is for the village to eliminate the village's twice yearly Project NICE cleanup efforts because they use volunteer labor.
"This is very early," Ketchmark said.
This article has been changed to correct Roman Swierczynski's title and to add comments by Teamsters attorney Khris Parker.