TUSCOLA – The Tuscola Education Association, which represents teachers in the Tuscola school district, filed a complaint on May 12 with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board alleging that the district has been taking part in unfair labor practices.
According to a copy of the complaint obtained by The News-Gazette, school district representatives, including Tuscola High School Principal Kyle Ransom, allegedly have been interfering with, restraining and coercing union representatives since April 25, in violation of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.
The union is asking for the state to order Ransom to undergo training regarding employee rights under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.
The act gives educational employees the right to organize and bargain collectively, and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board is the agency that enforces the act.
According to the complaint, the alleged intimidation began on April 25, one day after a union membership meeting.
Union Co-President Bill Hill said the union had no comment on the situation.
"The association feels this is a local matter and is working with the administration and board of education to follow up on this in a positive way," Hill said.
Tuscola school Superintendent Joe Burgess said the district would have no comment on the allegations.
"It is a personnel issue being handled locally," Burgess said. "The union and the district have been meeting to work it out."
Patty Brown of the Illinois Education Association's regional office in Urbana had no comment on Friday.
Ransom had no comment on Friday afternoon.
Kathy Lyons, public information officer for the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, said she would serve as the chief investigator for the Tuscola case.
"When an unfair labor practice charge is filed, we investigate the charges," Lyons said. "We request supporting documentation and evidence from the charging party, and we give the school district a chance to file evidence in support of their response."
Lyons said that often the school district and union are able to resolve the dispute, in which case the charges are withdrawn.
But if the parties do not resolve the issue, Lyons said, the agency could issue a complaint of its own against the school district.
Then a hearing would be held at the agency's office.
"The hearing is like a trial, with both sides presenting evidence before a judge," Lyons said.
After evidence has been presented, Lyons said, an administrative law judge would issue a written decision.
If the Tuscola school district is found guilty of violating the act, Lyons said, the state would issue a notice to all the district's employees telling them about the decision. She said the state also could order the district to post a sign at the schools saying it will not interfere with the union and its employees.
"We could issue a cease-and-desist order saying you may not intimidate employees; that's the most important part," Lyons said. "We could also order some make-whole remedies. For example, if somebody got fired unlawfully for their union activities, we could order the district to reinstate the employee and give him or her back pay."