When Does A ULP Charge Block An Election?

Written on 07/09/2021
Will Aitchison

Michael Coutre, a police officer with the Village of Crestwood in Illinois, filed a petition seeking an election as to whether the Illinois Council of Police should continue as the labor representative for employees. Before the petition was filed, the Council filed two unfair labor practice charges against the employer. The first alleged that the Village’s agents interrogated employees about who signed union authorization cards, threatened employees, and ultimately terminated four of them to discourage support for the Council. The second charge alleged that the Village engaged in bad faith bargaining to frustrate agreement and to stall the bargaining process until a vote on decertification of the Council could be held.

The Illinois Labor Relations Board issued a “blocking order” barring an election until the unfair labor practice complaints could be resolved. The Board cited an Illinois statute that states, “Nothing in this Section shall prohibit the Board, in its discretion, from extending the time for holding an election for so long as may be necessary under the circumstances, where the purpose for such extension is to permit resolution by the Board of an unfair labor practice charge filed by one of the parties to a representational proceeding against the other based upon conduct which may either affect the existence of a question concerning representation or have a tendency to interfere with a fair and free election where the party filing the charge has not filed a request to proceed with the election.”

The Board held that “here, a blocking order is appropriate based on the Council’s allegations, because the allegations, if proven true, would have a tendency to interfere with a fair and free election and would also affect the existence of a question concerning representation. The Council asserts that the Employer threatened employees with termination if they did not sign the petition to remove the Council as the employees’ exclusive representative. The Council further alleges that the Employer followed through with its threat by terminating the employment of four officers when they refused to sign. This conduct, if proven true, would tend to discourage employees from supporting the Council and would directly affect the showing of interest. The potential for this alleged misconduct to interfere with a free and fair election is heightened by the fact that it allegedly occurred at a time when it could most significantly erode the Council’s support – in the certification year and before the parties had negotiated an initial contract. The Board has previously blocked elections when presented with similar allegations of coercive and discriminatory conduct by an employer.

“A blocking order is similarly appropriate based on the bad faith bargaining allegations raised by the Council. Pending charges alleging a refusal to bargain in good faith can provide a basis for application of the blocking mechanism to a decertification proceeding. Here, if the Council were to prevail on the charge alleging a refusal to bargain in good faith, the remedy would be a bargaining order, which would preclude an election for a certain period of time, in any event. In addition, the parties’ bargaining relationship here is in its infancy, and the Employer’s alleged bad faith bargaining therefore has a higher likelihood of causing employee disaffection with the Council than it might have in the context of a longer bargaining relationship.

“In sum, the election is blocked until the unfair labor practice charges are resolved.”

Coutre v. Village of Crestwood, 37 PERI ¶ 92 (Ill. LRB 2021).

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