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updated: 8/26/2014 5:32 PM

DuPage forest preserve rangers trying to unionize

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A majority of DuPage Forest Preserve District rangers want to unionize, but first they'll have to overcome a challenge by their employer.

Representatives for the 22 rangers and senior rangers recently filed a petition with the Illinois Labor Relations Board to form a collective bargaining unit through the Metropolitan Alliance of Police.

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Keith George, MAP vice president, said the organization already has a chapter representing 18 police officers with the district. However, the rangers can't join the chapter because they're not sworn law enforcement officers.

The rangers approached MAP with the idea, George said, and are "trying to become their own stand-alone chapter."

District officials reached out to employees last month and urged them to assess whether they need to be represented by a union. In a letter, officials said representation by a union "is neither needed nor necessary."

Now that most of the rangers have signed union cards, the district is objecting.

Forest preserve commission President D. "Dewey" Pierotti said the district believes the proposed bargaining unit is too small.

He said the rangers belong to a larger pool of employees who do the same kind of work and are on the same pay scale.

"Our argument is that they're taking a small unit out of a big unit and organizing them," Pierotti said. "Under the law, they should do the entire group."

The labor board will conduct a hearing and decide if it's appropriate for the rangers to unionize, George said.

As part of that hearing, MAP will respond to the district's claim the rangers should be included with a bigger group of employees, he said.

A hearing date hasn't been set.

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