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Illinois Labor Board Says HUD Can Break Union Contracts

November 25, 2019

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

CAIRO, Ill.—The Illinois Labor Relations Board ruled Nov. 14 that it was legal for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to void a union contract for public-housing workers in the small town of Cairo. The board voted 4-0 to dismiss Laborers Local 773’s unfair-labor-practice complaint against the Alexander County Housing Authority. The union filed the complaint after HUD Secretary Ben Carson nullified the contract in June 2017, forcing the layoff of 20 workers. Carson said the agreement gave workers “extremely favorable” terms and “no protection or flexibility for the ACHA.” Seven of the workers were rehired as part-time nonunion employees. Local 773 alleged that the housing authority had failed to negotiate in good faith or give proper notice that it intended to terminate the contract. But a state administrative law judge said in May that HUD, which took over the county’s public housing in 2016, had the right under federal law to abrogate contracts under certain conditions, and was not covered by state labor laws requiring notice. The Laborers International Union of North America put Local 773 under “emergency trusteeship” in the fall of 2017, citing intimidation and financial irregularities, and replaced its business manager. Read more

November 25, 2019

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