Archive for March 6th, 2015

Oak Lawn management continues to fight the fire firefighter’s union

Excerpts from the Oak Lawn Leaf:

The Oak Lawn Village Board voted 4-1 to hire Ben Gehrt, an attorney with a reputation of vigorously advocating for management in disputes with unions, to appeal the $3.2 million dollar arbitration award recently entered against the village in favor of the firefighters.

Gehrt, a partner with the law firm of Clark Baird Smith LLP, has represented governmental bodies in several disputes with labor. He represented the City of Rockford in a case against the Illinois Association of Firefighters and was able to reduce minimum manning staffing levels.

Minimum manning has been an issue of contention between Village Manager Larry Deetjen and the union members even though the labor contract between the parties states that minimum manning is set at 21 union members.

In the last legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law that states that minimum manning is a subject for collective bargaining. Oak Lawn, however, was already subject to minimum manning provisions in a contract it signed. Nonetheless, under Deetjen, the village decided to reinterpret the minimum manning provision.

In January of 2008, the Village of Oak Lawn shut down a squad unit when there were insufficient firefighters at work, [deciding] to shut down the unit rather than to pay overtime to firefighters that would have been called into work.

A few months later, the village board, at the recommendation of the village manager and the Finance Committee Chairman Tom Phelan, voted to eliminate six firefighter positions despite opposition from the union.

The union filed various successful actions against the village and the village responded, again at Deetjen’s suggestion, to not fill vacant positions when union members retired. At that time, Deetjen, without any public discussion with the Board of Trustees, began counting the battalion chief as one of the 21 members mandated by the minimum manning ruling.

Alex Olejniczak is the only trustee remaining on the village board that supported Deetjen’s actions in 2008 and still supports those efforts against the firefighters’ union. At a recent meeting he even questioned whether anyone receiving political contributions from the union or its members should be able to vote on the issue.

Former Mayor Dave Heilmann, Trustees Robert Streit and Carol Quinlan have long since stopped supporting Deetjen’s recommendations regarding the firefighters. Streit has continuously urged the current board to stop the litigation with the firefighters noting recently that the manager is 0 for 7 in the disputes.

“(Deetjen) has lost at the labor board, at arbitration, in the Appellate Court, in the Supreme Court, in a second arbitration hearing, in a compliance hearing and in Circuit Court”, said Streit. He said that the constant fighting with the union is counter productive and … has cost the village over $3.2 million dollars.

In 2011 the union filed an enforcement petition arguing that the Kravit decision setting the minimum manning at 21 was being violated by the village. On February 5, 2015, the compliance order was entered agreeing with the village and awarding back pay with interest. The total owed now to firefighters is $3.2 million dollars and interest continues to accrue at about $500,000 a year.

When Streit asked for a total amount of legal fees spent on the seven years of litigation with the firefighters, he was told that it is less than the $3.2 million dollars in the award. “Nobody else on the board seemed to care that we are spending millions on this litigation”, said Streit.

Mayor Sandra Bury and the current board majority have been previously criticized for “union busting” when they voted to privatize the 911 Dispatch Center and fire 20 union village employees.

thanks Dan

Also see this previous post

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3-Alarm fire in Rolling Meadows, 3-4-15 (part 4)

Video from the fatal 3-Alarm fire in Rolling Meadows 3/4/15

a large photo gallery is at

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Niles FD response video

This from, Larry Shapiro:

I was in Niles the other day at Station 2 when they were dispatched simultaneously on two separate EMS runs. Here’s a brief video showing the new Ambulance 2, the new Engine 2, and Tower 2 that went into service on 2/25/15.

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