Last week, the Illinois Senate passed House Bill 5485, and the bill now awaits action by Governor Quinn. If signed by Governor Quinn, the bill would immediately go into effect and amend the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (“Act”) to make minimum manning a mandatory subject of bargaining for fire departments with unionized firefighters. Minimum manning will remain a permissive subject of bargaining for police departments.

If signed into law, this statutory amendment will likely have a significant impact on municipal labor negotiations and personnel practices in unionized fire departments throughout the state. While minimum manning would become a mandatory subject of bargaining, municipal employers would not be legally obligated to accept a union’s bargaining proposal concerning minimum manning. Rather, like with any other mandatory subject of bargaining, municipal employers would be required to bargain with the union in good faith over minimum manning. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on minimum manning and reach impasse, the subject would be considered in the interest arbitration process along with wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment which have historically been subject to interest arbitration. The law does not alter the existing interest arbitration procedures under Section 14 of the Act.

We will continue to monitor this legislation and issue a follow-up alert if Governor Quinn signs the bill. Because the law would take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature, municipal employers who are currently bargaining labor contracts with their firefighters, or who will begin bargaining in the near future, should consider the impact of this legislation in formulating their bargaining strategy.