Union accuses Lake County official of intimidation
The union representing employees of the Lake County Circuit Clerk's Office has filed four complaints with the Illinois Labor Relations Board accusing Circuit Clerk Keith Brin of unlawfully intimidating workers and refusing to open contract negotiations with them.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claims Brin banned employees from passing out union literature at the office prior to their shift, trumped up reasons to fire a worker who was organizing the union, and intimidated a second employee who distributed union literature outside the office.
Jeanne Polydoris, Brin's chief deputy, called the union statement "absurd," and said the union came into the office through "fraud and coercion."
"Employees in Keith Brin's office work for the taxpayers," Polydoris said in an email Wednesday. "The hardworking people of Lake County pay our salaries. All of our salaries. They don't work for AFSCME, and we don't answer to AFSCME, especially after they've come into the office, via fraud and coercion."
Lynn Himes, an attorney who represents the circuit clerk's office on the union issue, said AFSCME petitioned to represent employees in January 2015. An administrative law judge approved the union in July, but that decision is being challenged by Brin before an appellate court.
According to the AFSCME complaints, Brin has repeatedly rebuffed union overtures to begin contract talks and be involved in employee disciplinary issues.
"As circuit clerk employees, we serve the people of Lake County and we keep the courts running. But we weren't being treated fairly, so we came together to form our union," Cindy Robers, an employee in the clerk's office, said in a news release Wednesday. "The clerk's harassment and intimidation of us is out of bounds. We're more determined than ever to win a fair union contract and respect for the public service we provide."
Polydoris disputed allegations employees have been fired for union activities.
"We've terminated employees for gross misconduct, excessive absences and poor work, the taxpayers shouldn't be expected to fund this," she said. "With regard to the charges of harassment and intimidation, that's absurd. AFSCME doesn't like it that we refuse to roll over to their legendary tactics of bullying, coercion and intimidation."
The labor board will hold hearings on the union allegations on a yet-to-be-determined date. If the charges are substantiated, the board can order remedies for any violations.