Binding arbitration is required to be part of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between a school board and teachers union, and a school board’s refusal to arbitrate grievances under the CBA generally violates 115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (“Act”), which provides: “Educational employers, their agents or representatives are prohibited from  [i]nterfering, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed under this Act.” As such, the refusal to arbitrate might very well result in the union’s bringing an unfair labor practice before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (“IELRB”).
But what if the school board does not believe the grievance at issue is arbitrable? The action available becomes a Catch-22 of sorts. As recently noted by the Illinois Supreme Court in Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 215 IL 118043, the “appropriate method” of challenging whether a grievance is arbitrable is refusing to arbitrate.
Of course, the board’s very refusal puts the grievance and refusal under the jurisdiction of the IELRB and subjects the board to its determinations. The board’s recourse for a bad outcome lies in direct administrative review with the appellate court.