Posts Tagged Oak Lawn Firefighters Union

Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from an editorial at the

I have come to expect the Village of Oak Lawn administration to twist any local challenge into an indictment of the firefighters who protect the citizens in the community. 

It’s become a predictable pattern due to Village Manager Larry Deetjen’s unhealthy obsession to slash the fire department staffing levels at any cost.

However, I must admit the latest maneuver by Deetjen did catch me by surprise because it flies in the face of common sense and sound financial stewardship. He recently announced the village might choose to walk away from the grant if he’s unsuccessful in extorting concessions from the Oak Lawn Firefighter’s Union.

First — kudos to the Oak Lawn Fire Department Administration for taking the initiative and being awarded a $1.35 million SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Grant from the federal government. The grant to hire seven full-time firefighters was awarded in response to the department’s application for assistance to maintain nationally recognized staffing levels to best provide emergency services.

However, the real winners here are the Oak Lawn taxpayers. Despite Deetjen’s spin, the SAFER grant will save the village over $1.5 million dollars in existing overtime costs over the next three years. Period.

Despite what Deetjen might have you believe, the seven firefighters who stand to be hired using the grant will not be used to increase the daily fire department staffing at an additional cost. Instead, they will be used to backfill daily vacancies caused by a significant decrease in personnel over the past decade — an unfortunate result of Deetjen’s quest to reduce public safety levels in the village.

The only real decision is to pay for personnel using Oak Lawn taxpayer dollars or by bringing federal dollars back to Illinois. It’s that simple.

Although I would normally disagree with Deetjen’s recent statement to the village board that decisions regarding staffing a fire department are business and not about public safety, in this case it can be both.

I hope the village manager and mayor can temporarily set aside their animosity and take a win for the fire department, the village and its taxpayers.

Either way the Oak Lawn firefighters will continue to provide the exceptional emergency services you’ve come to know and expect.

Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

thanks Dan

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

The contentious battle between organized labor and Mayor Sandra Bury’s administration reached another battleground level last week when the Oak Lawn Firefighters’ union filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court after the administration notified the union of proposed contract language.

The administration exchanged final offers with the union on June 1, 2016 and at that time notified the union that it intended to include a new provision in its labor contract addressing residency that states:

All bargaining unit members hired before the issuance of Arbitrator Bierig’s award are required to establish residency within the State of Illinois within six months of the issuance of his decision. All bargaining unit members hired on or after the issuance of the Arbitrator bierig’s award are required to establish residency within (50) miles of Village Hall….within six months…

The union’s lawsuit seeks an order from the court that states that the village is “precluded from imposing residency requirements on bargaining unit employees hired prior to the Arbitrator’s award”.

The union has cited Illinois State Statutes that state residency requirements cannot be made more restrictive for employees after they are already serving in the department. The union, in its filing, noted that the Village of Oak Lawn has not had a residency requirement on any of the current employees and therefore any new rule would be “more restrictive” and in violation of Illinois Law and “contrary to its authority under the Illinois Constitution”.

The lawsuit was reportedly served upon the Village of Oak Lawn on August 3rd and seeks a declaratory judgment. In addition to the union, the named plaintiffs are Fire Captain William Roser, Engineer Timothy Radke, and Firefighter/Paramedic Todd Stanford.

Roser has served the village since April of 1992 and has lived in Munster, Indiana for 24 years in a home he owns. Radke, has served the village since May of 1993 and has lived in Munster, Indiana in a home he owns for the past 21 years. Stanford has served the village since May of 1997 and has lived in Crown Point, Indiana in a home he has owned for the past 19 years.

Under the Village of Oak Lawn’s proposal, those employees would have to sell their homes and move into Illinois. The village has the right to answer the allegations or make a motion to dismiss the complaint within 28 days of service.

The lawsuit also seeks attorney’s fees and costs for filing the lawsuit. The issue of legal costs, related to the fire department, has long been a contentious one during the term of Village Manager Larry Deetjen. The Village of Oak Lawn, in response to a Freedom of Information request, recently confirmed that it has spent over $500,000 to two different law firms for litigation with the firefighters. Smith, Clark, and Baird has received $214,936.38 since December of 2014, while the Village Attorneys, Peterson, Johnson, and Murray have received the remainder dating back to the beginning of Mayor Sandra Bury’s entry into office.

Trustee Robert Streit said the spending is over $1 million dollars dating back to the time when Deetjen was hired.

thanks Dan

The complaint can be viewed HERE

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Oak Lawn management continues to fight the firefighter’s union (more)

Excerpts from an editorial in the written by Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deejten:

On Feb, 27, the Daily Southtown ran a story regarding Oak Lawn firefighters and a state board ruling that ordered back pay of $3.2 million with a 7 percent interest rate compounded. Respectfully, immediate clarification is needed for all your readers, not just Oak Lawn taxpayers.

Sadly, the Oak Lawn model of delivering fire-rescue services is broken, and the Oak Lawn fire union officials quoted in the article have resisted changes asked by management for a system that has not changed staffing protocol for 25 years. No industry in America could have survived that steadfast resistance to change without filing for bankruptcy.

The taxpayers of Oak Lawn through their mayor and trustees have not had a voice due to legislation signed by former Gov. Quinn after approval by a general assembly that gets sizable campaign contributions from the International and Illinois Firefighter Associations. One fire union alone donated over $450,000 in 2014. Structural and political impediments to change have been in place in spite of pleas from nearly every major Illinois town and the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and the Illinois Municipal League.

Oak Lawn fire union representatives will bolster their stance on staffing by citing “workplace safety,” that “staffing needs are dictated by the teamwork nature of firefighters” and “increasing workload.”

Oak Lawn takes great pride in supporting its police and firefighters. More than 60 percent of the village’s main operating fund goes for public safety. Unfortunately, the fire union’s resistance to change is costing the village more than $2 million per year in state-mandated firefighter overtime, or more than $36,000 per firefighter.

Gov. Rauner has called for shared sacrifice to get our state economically competitive and fiscally strong again. Budgets need to be balanced and pensions funded at levels in line with the taxpayers who pay those benefits. It will take all parties working together to achieve that goal, and local elected officials must be given the tools to manage their operations.

In Oak Lawn’s case, surrounding communities use alternative models for providing fire-rescue services that work quite well at lower cost. Like any business striving to survive in a highly competitive and changing environment, “best practices” must be used.

Some key issues for consideration:

•Oak Lawn is not “0 for 7” in lawsuits filed against it by International Firefighters Union Local 3405. Oak Lawn respects the law but also its obligation to appeal decisions when deemed not to be in the public’s interest. There is changing political leadership over time and different judges, arbitrators and other officials who decide every case on its merit. In the back pay decision, a state employee seriously erred in directing the village to pay firefighters — who average $89,000 in wages — $3.2 million in back pay for work never performed and for no improvement to public safety.

•More than 70 percent of Oak Lawn firefighters neither live nor pay property tax in Oak Lawn. the union leader who was pictured and quoted in the Southtown story resides in Glen Ellyn, where the median household income is $87,904 as opposed to Oak Lawn’s $54,828 and the ability to pay for fire-rescue services is more than twice Oak Lawn’s households’ ability.

•Why not stop appealing decisions in favor of firefighters and just hire more firefighters to staff fire stations with 22 positions around the clock? The village has prudently avoided spending more than $3.6 million cumulatively since 2008 and will avoid further costs annually by not filling vacant positions and incurring overtime that’s a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer money. For every firefighter, Oak Lawn pays an average of more than $120,000 per year in pay and benefits and must account for an average pension that will be worth a total of $1 million. The financial impact of the ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, if upheld, is not a one-time payment but carries a recurring cost of more than $600,000 per year compounded over time. In five years, another $3 million in unnecessary costs will be borne by Oak Lawn taxpayers.

•Is safety compromised by deploying fewer firefighters when their workload is increasing? Absolutely not. In technical terms, the utilization rate on a typical workday is low, and our fire Mutual Aid System accounts safely for non-typical days. Firefighters have a tough job, and our firefighters and paramedics do a fine job for our community. Fire Chief George Sheets is a well-respected professional and would never allow anything that puts either our residents or firefighters in harm’s way.

•Oak Lawn is blessed to belong to MABAS, one of the country’s top two fire mutual aid systems. We and 11 other communities work together to back up each other in times of major emergencies that require more resources. This system allows the village to bring in over 100 firefighting personnel to combat a large emergency situation.

In summary, the recent state board ruling is a setback, but we have a right to appeal and would be derelict in our duty if we did not do so. It’s hard to understand why a village the size of Oak Lawn would be forced to pay 74 firefighters $3.2 million in back pay plus interest for work that was never done. This amount is 21 percent of the village’s current property tax levy, and it has no funds to make that payment.

Oak Lawn is a fair employer with a workforce turnover rate far below industry standards nationwide. We are appealing the board’s ruling because we think it is unfair and incorrect. We hope all our employees would understand that.

For additional information and the village’s comprehensive statement, readers can go to, where wages for all village employees in 2014 are listed.

thanks Dan

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Oak Lawn blames firefighters … for everything

The Oak Lawn Leaf has an article with a video clip about the Village of Oak Lawn blaming fire firefighters for more service cuts:

The Oak Lawn Leaf has learned exclusively that the Village of Oak Lawn’s administration has notified the Local 150 Public Works bargaining unit that it intends to reduce the workforce by as many as six employees after the village lost another battle with the local firefighters’ collective bargaining unit.

According to sources within the Local 150 workforce, the village administration is not only notifying the public works department members of its intentions, it is placing the blame for the cuts on the firefighters’ refusal to abandon the minimum manning provision in [their] contract that has been upheld multiple times in various courts in the last three years.

As a result of those losses in court, the Village of Oak Lawn is facing the reality of having to pay as much as two million dollars in back wages to the firefighters.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen is reportedly “livid” that the village is facing the prospect of paying the back pay but he is not only avoiding any blame for the decisions that have led to the judgment amount but he’s actually blaming the firefighters.

It is exactly the same strategy used by Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury, who in March, laid all of the perceived budget problems of the village at the feet of the fire department in a videotaped message for the Illinois Municipal League in which she lobbied against legislation that did not even concern Oak Lawn’s minimum manning contract provision.

Bury claimed that the minimum manning provision has been “devastating to our budget” arguing that the village spends two million dollars on fire department overtime because of the minimum manning standard.  The Oak Lawn Firefighters Union has argued in the past that the overtime is related to the village’s decision to reduce the number of firemen and paramedics from over 100 to 72.

While Oak Lawn is subject to the minimum manning language by contract, Bury chose to tape the message urging the defeat of the bill claiming in her message that “minimum manning is forcing cuts in public works, telecommunications, the police department and administrative staff”.

At the time, it was widely understood that Bury was referring to last year’s budget which witnessed the outsourcing of the 911 emergency dispatch services and significant cuts in the police department personnel and public works services.  Last winter, residents complained about the lack of snow plowing and salting of the village’s streets.

Trustee Robert Streit, who has consistently battled for increased public safety measures and for maintaining public works services, reacted quickly to the news that the administration is blaming the firefighters for the threatened cuts in public works. “It is ridiculous that the administration is telling the public works union that their failure to staff the fire department and their failure to manage the resources was caused by the firefighters and not their own mismanagement.”    He called the idea of pitting employees in one department against another a “morale killer.”  Streit said that he asked the mayor and his fellow trustees to negotiate with the fire department union rather than continuing the lawsuits but his request was “ignored.”

thanks Dan

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