The latest round in the tussle between the village of North Riverside and its union firefighters was something of a split decision, but it still doesn’t look like it’s going to alter the final outcome of what is now a two-year long battle to privatize the fire department.

The Illinois Labor Relations Board ruled last month that the village wasn’t guilty of surface bargaining – that is, making a charade of negotiating while never intending to come to an agreement. 

But the board did rule that the village wrongly interpreted well-worn Illinois labor law by asserting it had a right to unilaterally terminate the contract of union employees who are not allowed, by law, to strike or be locked out. The board also ruled the village wrongly gave union firefighters termination notices, even if the village didn’t follow through on those firings until the case had made its way all the way through the courts.

Two years later, we’re back at square one, waiting for the Illinois Court of Appeals to rule on a circuit judge’s ruling she didn’t have jurisdiction over the case. It’s been our view all along that the appellate court is going to uphold that ruling and the matter will be sent to arbitration – where it should have gone in the first place.

In the meantime, the village has spent a lot of time and money litigating this matter. And while heat generated on both sides now seems to have cooled somewhat as the final act plays out, the village really overreached on this one.

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