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My Statement on the Arbitration Ruling

In December, the City Council voted in favor of a police contract negotiated by the Mayor’s Office. Instead of keeping the financial and arbitration pieces together, the Mayor split the package and decided to take two votes; one, a financial package with significant increases to police salaries and other negotiated items; and two, interest arbitration regarding police discipline actions in excess of 365 days. I voted against the arbitration initially, but after reading the Arbitrator's final opinion response to the City Council, I decided to vote in favor of the mandated labor agreement that dictates state law on this issue. While I don’t agree with everything in the Arbitrator’s ruling, the agreed to Arbitrator of the City of Chicago and FOP based his legal argument on the Workers’ Right Amendment of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. 


As stated from the arbitration ruling, “the Workers’ Rights Amendment is a constitutional protection of the statutory right for final and binding arbitration explicitly provided in Sections 8, 2 and 15 of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (“IPLRA”). Those sections of the IPLRA specifically guarantee police officers the right to have final and binding arbitration in their collective bargaining agreements.”


The City Council rejection of the arbitration ruling now sends the case to the Cook County Circuit Court for a judge to rule on whether the IPLRA and interest arbitration rulings apply versus the sentiment of aldermen and the mayor. 


While I have and will continue to advocate for police accountability, not every issue of reform and accountability can be won on political slogans. Our own city attorneys negotiating the contract were clear when they told us that there “is a 0.00% chance” that a judge would overturn the ruling of an arbitrator. Arguments about the US Bill of Rights trumping the state law, or our sentiments do not factor into a legal decision. 


How could this have played out differently, and how could we avoid a legal fight in court that our own lawyers say we will lose? One, the Mayor could have kept the two pieces of the police contract together while negotiating over the past year and used the leverage to get a better result. Second, going to the state lawmakers last year and ask them to change the state laws that dictate what protections are shared by labor unions, including police, in the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. 


Throughout my time in Council, we have had proposed ordinances nixed by city attorneys once we found that they ran counter to state and federal laws, or where home rule authority did not exist. Is the new City approach going to be that we pick and choose when we decide to follow state and federal laws? 

Where home rule does not bestow power and authority on our city, we have to follow state laws. Home rule has broad applications, but not on this issue. Failing to follow state law as we are always advised by city lawyers, will lead to lawsuits and other unintended consequences. Despite the arbitration ruling and rejection of the law by the Council and Mayor, we will work with the police department to continue the reforms required by the consent decree, and state and federal laws. 


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