Intimidation From The Top

A judge's ruling seems to provide hard evidence of fear and intimidation by Dist. 150 Superintendent Grenita Lathan.

An administrative law judge for the state's Educational Labor Relations Board says comments Lathan made during a bargaining session with the district's police union's bargaining unit in September, 2011 constituted a threat.

Lathan told bargainers the more money the district spent on legal fees would mean less money for the department and suggested they could find other work if they were not willing to "get on board." Lathan also urged bargaining unit members to remember where their money came from when making their mortgage payments and paying their bills.

The 14-page ruling by Administrative Law Judge Ellen Maureen Strizak dated July 25 claims, "This statement is clearly a threat, as it effectively conveyed that bargaining unit members could not remain employed by the district if they continued to engage the aforementioned activity and reminded them of dire consequences unemployment could have on their lives. It was reasonable for the bargaining unit members to believe that they would not receive raises or even lose their jobs if they continued to engage in protected activity."

The district is ordered to post a notice for 60 days promising to not threaten employees, or interfere with their right to file a grievance.

Strizak ruled in favor of District 150 on two other union complaints.

One was that Lathan bargained directly with employees rather than through the bargaining unit. Lathan invited employees to attend negotiations and, while a couple of them did, the union was present and there was no evidence suggesting the union objected to the invitation.

Strizak also ruled there was no evidence "the district took any adverse employment action against the bargaining unit."

Strizak's full ruling can be be found here.


Lathan has responded to the ruling with a written statement:

"The District prevailed on the two most serious charges. As to the third charge, I am disappointed in the outcome. The charge arose out of a meeting the administration had with members of the union in which implementation of a significant board policy was discussed. Most of the members attending the meeting did not feel threatened and many thanked me for my attendance at the meeting. The finding by the Administrative Law Judge in this regard does not result in any penalty to the Board of Education or School District, other than posting a notice for 60 days. It is unlikely that we will seek an appeal. The case was decided by an Administrative Law Judge and should there be an appeal, it will be to be to the Illinois Educational Relations Board."

Change150, a group that rose out of the controversy surrounding the Charter Oak ISAT score irregularities, issued a statement on the ruling as well.

"Unfortunately, the leaders of Change150, our supporters and many of the residents and parents within District 150 are not surprised by this ruling as it formally documents what we have been hearing from District 150 employees since the start of our crusade - principals are being berated in their monthly meetings, teachers and parents are being met with cold, hostile attitudes when they ask questions of the Superintendent and certain administrators and valued employees are being terminated for daring to have opinions.

'I hope this ruling is a wake-up call to Dr. Lathan and her supporters that they can’t treat people this way. Hopefully she will look in the mirror, take responsibility for her actions, learn from this, and embrace a healthier and more effective style of leadership,' said Jim Powell, President of Change150.

Also not surprising is Superintendent Lathan’s response, which stated, 'The finding by the Administrative Law Judge in this regard does not result in any penalty to the Board of Education or School District, other than posting a notice for 60 days.' Sadly, her response is just another example of

her cavalier attitude and pattern of not accepting responsibility for her actions. In our opinion, a good, well-liked, successful leader would be mortified to have to publically promise to: 'NOT threaten our employees, or otherwise interfere with our employees’ right to file grievances over their terms and conditions of employment' and 'NOT in any like or related manner, interfere with, restrain or coerce our employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them in the Act.'"

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Topics : Labor
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People : Ellen Maureen StrizakGrenita Lathan
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