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The full case caption appears at the end of this opinion. JUSTICE BRESLIN delivered the opinion of the court: The fundamental issue on appeal is whether striking workers whoseemployment is terminated by their employer are ineligible for unemploymentbenefits pursuant to section 604 of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Act)(820 ILCS 405/100 et seq.(West 1995)). We find that section 604 applies toindividuals on strike, but does not act to disqualify employees who aredischarged for alleged misconduct while on strike. Accordingly, we affirm. FACTS The defendants are six striking workers whose employment was terminated byCaterpillar, Inc. (Caterpillar) prior to the resolution of a labor disputebetween Caterpillar and its employees for alleged misconduct on the picketline. The strike began in June, 1994. In anticipation of the strike,Caterpillar issued a pamphlet entitled “Rules of Conduct for StrikingEmployees” (rules). The rules disseminated to all employees set forthgrounds for discharge based on certain conduct. It was because of allegedviolation of these rules that Caterpillar later discharged the defendants. Since they were involuntarily unemployed, the defendants filed claims forunemployment benefits with the Illinois Department of Employment Security(Department). Caterpillar responded, insisting that the defendants wereineligible to receive benefits under sections 602(A) and 604 of the Act.Pursuant to section 602(A), an individual is ineligible if he has beendischarged for the deliberate and willful violation of reasonable companyrules governing employee performance on the job. Section 604 disqualifiesclaimants unemployed due to a labor strike. At the conclusion of hearings on the matters, a Department claimsadjudicator granted each defendant’s request for benefits. Afterunsuccessfully appealing the decisions to a Department referee and theBoard of Review (Board), Caterpillar filed complaints for administrativereview in the circuit court and now appeals to this court claiming that:(1) the defendants are not eligible for benefits pursuant to section 604 ofthe Act because they were discharged while on strike; (2) the proceduralroute taken during administrative review was inappropriate; and (3)defendant Michael Steagall’s determination of eligibility under section602(A) of the Act was against the manifest weight of the evidence(3–97–1027). ANALYSIS I. Section 604 Eligibility In general, the purpose of the Act is to alleviate the economic burden ofinvoluntary unemployment on an employee. 820 ILCS 405/100 (West 1996). Uponfiling a claim for unemployment, workers are eligible for benefits oncethey register with the Illinois Job Service. 820 ILCS 405/500(A)(West1996). However, the legislature has carved out several exceptions to aclaimant’s eligibility for benefits under the Act. Section 604 of the Actprovides, in part:
“An individual shall be ineligible for benefits for any week with respect to which it is found that his total or partial unemployment is due to a stoppage of work which exists because of a labor dispute at the factory, establishment, or other premises at which he is or was last employed.” 820 ILCS 405/604 (West 1996).

At the outset, four of the defendants claim that Caterpillar has waived anyargument regarding section 604 eligibility because the letters of appealthey received failed to raise the adjudicator’s decision as to section 604as an issue. While we acknowledge that the appeal letters did not mention asection 604 argument, we note that the issue was fully challenged andargued at every stage of the administrative proceeding. The defendants werewell aware of Caterpillar’s position. Thus, in the exercise of ourdiscretion, we find the plaintiff’s section 604 contentions have not beenwaived and are properly before this court. See Ruane v. Amore, 287 Ill.App. 3d 465, 677 N.E.2d 1369 (1997)(although not specifically mentioned innotice of appeal, record indicated that issue was raised below and wasintegral part of appeal; thus, it was not waived). Turning now to the merits of the case, the two primary arguments presentedby Caterpillar are the same issues it raised before the second district inCaterpillar, Inc. v. Doherty, 299 Ill. App. 3d 338, 701 N.E.2d 1163 (1998).In that case, Caterpillar appealed an identical determination by a claimsadjudicator that a discharged employee who was previously on strike waseligible for unemployment benefits. The employee was discharged due tomisconduct for threatening a nonstriking worker in violation ofCaterpillar’s rules. The court noted that the plain language of section 604demands that an employee’s unemployment be “due to a stoppage of work whichexists because of a labor dispute.” (Emphasis in original) Doherty, 299Ill. App. 3d at 343, 701 N.E.2d at 1167. Applying this language to thefacts of the case, it found that the defendant was not unemployed due tothe labor dispute. No longer could the unemployed claimant return toCaterpillar once the dispute was resolved. Caterpillar’s actions interminating his employment ended any such expectation. Accordingly, thecourt held that once an employee was discharged or terminated, he or shewas no longer disqualified from receiving benefits under section 604 sincethe individual was no longer unemployed because of a labor dispute.Doherty, 299 Ill. App. 3d at 345-46, 701 N.E.2d at 1168-69. We agree with the policy determinations and holdings reached in Doherty. Inthe instant case, the defendants were initially unemployed due to a labordispute. Thereafter, they were discharged for alleged misconduct. Upon suchdischarge, they were no longer unemployed due to a labor dispute. They wereunemployed because Caterpillar believed they had willfully violated companyrules governing their behavior as employees. Because section 604 appliesonly to persons who are on strike and not to those who are terminated, thedefendants are not barred from eligibility for unemployment benefits bysection 604. Caterpillar insists that if the Board’s decision is allowed to stand, itwould operate to encourage misconduct and violence. It contends thatstriking employees who might otherwise be ineligible for benefits couldeasily circumvent the statute by engaging in misconduct that would prompttheir discharge. However, this argument fails when considering the Act andits exceptions as a whole. As demonstrated by this case, employeesdischarged for misconduct are ineligible to receive benefits as well.Pursuant to section 602(A), if the evidence establishes that an employeehas been properly discharged due to violence or other acts of misconduct,the unemployed individual is disqualified from receiving unemploymentbenefits. 820 ILCS 405/602(A) (West 1996). We further disagree with Caterpillar’s broad claim that ineligible workersare disqualified from receiving benefits as long as the strike continues,regardless of discharge, due to the section 604 provision “or was lastemployed.” In Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. v. Aldridge, 179 Ill. 2d 141, 688 N.E.2d 90(1997), a group of claimants sought unemployment benefits from Bridgestoneeven though Bridgestone was in the middle of a labor dispute. While onstrike, the claimants had obtained interim employment from which they werelater discharged. The Supreme Court focused on the fact that the claimantswere no longer unemployed due to a labor dispute where they were lastedemployed. Applying this rationale, it held that as long as the dischargedclaimants could prove that they procured an interim job in good faith, theyshould be entitled to receive unemployment benefits chargeable toBridgestone despite the ongoing labor dispute of which they had been apart. Bridgestone, 179 Ill. 2d at 156, 688 N.E.2d at 97. [FOOTNOTE 1] Accordingly, wefind that the defendants are not disqualified from receiving benefits undersection 604. II. Administrative Procedure Section 800 of the Act requires:

“Whenever a determination of a claims adjudicator involves a decision as to eligibility under Section 604, appeals shall be taken to the Director or his representative designated for such purpose.” 820 ILCS 405/800 (West 1996).

The claims adjudicator made a partial decision of ineligibility undersection 604. Consequently, we agree with Caterpillar’s contention that theDepartment did not follow the proper appellate procedure. However, we findthat any procedural error was harmless because section 604 does not applyto striking workers who are discharged in the middle of a strike. SeeDoherty, 299 Ill. App. 3d at 345-46, 701 N.E.2d at 1168-69. III. Defendant Steagall’s Eligibility Under Section 602(A) (3–97–1027) An administrative agency’s factual findings are held to be prima facietrue; therefore, we are limited to determining whether they are against themanifest weight of the evidence. La Salle Partners, Inc. v. IllinoisProperty Tax Appeal Board, 269 Ill. App. 3d 621, 646 N.E.2d 935 (1995). While on strike, Steagall was discharged for striking vehicles entering andexiting a Caterpillar facility on June 20, 1995. A witness for Caterpillartestified that he saw Steagall walking in front of vehicles and shaking hisfist, but he did not recall whether the plant received any complaints aboutSteagall’s conduct or whether any vehicles were prevented from entering theplant. Steagall testified that he was present at the picket line on the dayin question, but did not strike any vehicle. Another witness corroboratedhis testimony. Consequently, we find that the Board’s conclusion thatSteagall was not engaged in misconduct is not contrary to the manifestweight of the evidence. For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the circuit court of PeoriaCounty is affirmed. Affirmed. HOLDRIDGE, P.J., concurring. KOEHLER, J., dissenting. JUSTICE KOEHLER, dissenting: I believe that the majority has written out of the statute at issue acrucial clause that materially affects who is and who is not entitled tounemployment benefits. Because we are not vested with the authority torewrite legislation, or to excise portions of existing statutory law, Irespectfully dissent. This case arises out of a labor dispute between the parties. The defendantsare six striking workers whose employment was terminated by their employer,the plaintiff, prior to strike’s end. Following that termination, thedefendants sought unemployment benefits. Principally at issue is whetherthe defendants are eligible for unemployment benefits as a matter of law,given a provision in the applicable statute disqualifying striking workersfrom receiving unemployment benefits. I believe they are not. Underlying Facts In June 1994, members of the International Union, United Automobile,Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America commenced a strikeagainst Caterpillar, Inc. (Caterpillar) at its manufacturing plant inMossville, Illinois. That strike would last until December 1995. Inanticipation of the strike, Caterpillar disseminated a letter to itsemployees entitled “Rules of Conduct for Striking Employees” (Rules ofConduct), wherein certain conduct on the part of any striking worker wasarticulated as grounds for discharge. During the course of the strike,Caterpillar discharged or indefinitely suspended six employees (thedefendants) for various acts which it believed were in violation of theRules of Conduct. The defendants thereafter initiated these proceedings. Legal Eligibility for Benefits Under Section 604 The Unemployment Insurance Act (Act) was enacted to provide support tounemployed Illinois workers and their families during periods ofinvoluntary unemployment. 820 ILCS 405/100 (West 1996). See also AmericanSteel Foundries v. Gordon, 404 Ill. 174, 181, 88 N.E.2d 465, 468 (1949). Anunemployed person may receive benefits if: (1) he meets the eligibilityrequirements of section 500 of the Act (820 ILCS 405/500 (West 1996)); and(2) is not otherwise subject to any exemption specified by the Act.Illinois courts construe the Act liberally to favor awarding benefits, butestablishing eligibility nevertheless remains ultimately with the claimant.Nichols v. Department of Employment Security, 218 Ill. App. 3d 803, 809,578 N.E.2d 1121, 1126 (1991). Here, the defendants meet the first requirement for benefits, as they fallwithin the eligibility requirements of section 500. However, they fail thesecond requirement, because they are indeed subject to an exemption setforth in the Act. Specifically, the defendants are disqualified undersection 604 because they were involved in a labor dispute at the time theywere discharged/suspended. The principle behind section 604, which is commonly referred to as the”labor dispute disqualification,” is that the state will not favor oneparty over another in a labor dispute by payment of compensation. Ross v.Department of Employment Security, 201 Ill. App. 3d 474, 477-78, 559 N.E.2d100, 102 (1990). Section 604 evinces the legislature’s desire to remainneutral in the collective bargaining process. Golab v. Department ofEmployment Security, 281 Ill. App. 3d 108, 114, 666 N.E.2d 347, 352 (1996).Without this exception, the employer would be put in the position ofsubsidizing the strike by means of its compulsory contributions to theunemployment insurance fund. Highway Drivers, Dockmen, Spotters, Rampmen,Meat Packing House and Allied Products Drivers and Helpers, Office Workersand Miscellaneous Employees Union, Local No. 710 v. Ward, 201 Ill. App. 3d534, 541, 559 N.E.2d 158, 163 (1990). Section 604 provides, in pertinent part, that “[a]n individual shall beineligible for benefits for any week with respect to which it is found thathis total or partial unemployment is due to a stoppage of work which existsbecause of a labor dispute at the factory, establishment, or other premisesat which he is or was last employed.” (Emphasis added.) 820 ILCS 405/604(West 1996). The crux of this case lies with what the General Assemblymeant when it excluded fired workers from receiving benefits forunemployment due to a work stoppage at the place where each of thoseworkers “was last employed.” Unfortunately, the majority’s construction of the phrase renders itmeaningless. As set forth in more detail below, there no longer exists asingle factual scenario which could put that phrase into play. The majority does not meet this challenge with its citation toBridgestone/Firestone, Inc. v. Aldridge, 179 Ill. 2d 141, 688 N.E.2d 90(1997), which simply harmonized two sections of the Act addressing who wasa claimant’s last employer. In Bridgestone, the claimants were workers whowent on strike at their second to last place of employment. Those workersthen obtained employment elsewhere but were terminated less than 30 daysinto their subsequent employment. Because benefits are charged to the lastemployer of more than 30 days under section 1502.1(E) of the Act (820 ILCS405/1502.1(E)(West 1994)), the second to last employer was charged. InBridgestone, the supreme court simply pointed out that section 604 does nothave a similar 30-day minimum period in defining the “last employer”; thus,the claimants were not on strike at the place where they were lastemployed. While this created, under an unusual set of circumstances, adichotomy concerning a claimant’s “last employer,” the supreme courtapplied the sections as they were written and allowed the dichotomy tostand. I am not satisfied that the General Assembly’s purpose in incorporating thephrase “or was last employed” was simply to create inconsistent definitionsof who was a claimant’s “last employer” when faced with this quirky factualscenario. Bridgestone is as much about section 1502.1 of the Act as it isabout section 604 and does not shed light on what the phrase “or was lastemployed” means in the factual context facing the court today. We would dowell to heed our supreme court in Bridgestone when, in remarking upon basicprinciples of statutory construction, it observed: ” ‘ “ It is a primaryrule in the interpretation and construction of statutes that the intentionof the legislature should be ascertained and given effect. [Citations.]This is to be done primarily from a consideration of the legislativelanguage itself, which affords the best means of its exposition, and if thelegislative intent can be ascertained therefrom it must prevail and will begiven effect without resorting to other aids for construction. [Citations.]There is no rule of construction which authorizes a court to declare thatthe legislature did not mean what the plain language of the statuteimports.” [Citation.]‘ ” Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. v. Aldridge, 179 Ill.2d 141, 149, 688 N.E.2d 90, 94 (1997), quoting Illinois Power Co. v. Mahin,72 Ill. 2d 189, 194, 381 N.E.2d 222, 224 (1978). It is true that reviewing courts will also “give substantial weight anddeference to an interpretation of an ambiguous statue by the agency chargedwith the administration and enforcement of the statute.” (Emphasis added.)Abrahamson v. Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, 153 Ill. 2d76, 97-98, 606 N.E.2d 1111, 1121-22 (1992). This is because, inter alia,”[s]uch an interpretation expresses an informed source for ascertaining thelegislative intent.” Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 98, 606 N.E.2d at 1121. Itfollows, however, that where an agency has interpreted a statute contraryto the plain meaning of the language used by the General Assembly, we willreverse it. The deference accorded to an agency is not so extensive as torender a reviewing court a “rubber stamp.” See, e.g., Dienes v. Holland, 64Ill. App. 3d 109, 113-14, 380 N.E.2d 1156, 1160 (1978) (appellate courtreversed the Director’s interpretation of section 604 when the Directorfailed to give application of the ordinary meaning of the words “or waslast employed”). The majority’s reasoning is that section 604 is inapplicable because thedefendants were no longer unemployed due to the strike once they weredischarged. Rather, they were unemployed because of the discharge. However,the defendants were discharged for violation of rules promulgated as adirect result of the strike itself. But for the work stoppage, no ruleswould have been necessary to control the actions of the striking workersand to pursue the safety of people at the strike location. But for the workstoppage, the defendants’ conduct would have violated no rules. Indeed, butfor the work stoppage, there would not have been the conduct at issue,which was without exception related directly to the strike. Accordingly,any suspension or discharge for failure to abide by the rules is likewise”due to” the stoppage of work. “[S]tatutory language itself gives the best indication of legislativeintent.” Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. v. Aldridge, 179 Ill. 2d at 151, 688N.E.2d at 94. Where possible, a statute will be construed so that no word,clause or sentence is rendered superfluous. Dunaway v. Department of Labor,109 Ill. App. 3d 63, 68, 440 N.E.2d 231, 235 (1982), rev’d on othergrounds, 99 Ill. 2d 417, 459 N.E.2d 1332 (1984). Section 604 disqualifiesfrom receiving benefits a person who is unemployed due to a stoppage ofwork “at which he is or was last employed.” (Emphasis added.) 820 ILCS405/604 (West 1995). The Act distinguishes between those workers who willhave jobs waiting for them when the strike concludes and those who willnot; in other words, those workers who remain employed from those who werefired during the strike. The Act then includes both types of workers in thecategory of workers ineligible for unemployment benefits. There is simplyno other factual scenario to which one could apply the phrase “or was lastemployed.” The plain meaning of the language used by the General Assemblydemonstrates an anticipation that workers fired as a result of a strikemight apply for unemployment benefits during the strike and a determinationthat they should not be eligible for those benefits. By today’s ruling, ourcourt has vetoed that decision. I acknowledge that the second district has analyzed facts indistinguishablefrom those before this court and come to the same conclusion as themajority. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Doherty, ___ Ill. App. 3d ___, 701 N.E.2d1163 (1998). I simply believe that analysis to be wrong. I agree with the majority that the administrative procedure followed wasincorrect but constituted harmless error. Because I believe the defendantsare not eligible for benefits, I would not address whether the facts foundin defendant Steagall’s case were against the manifest weight of theevidence. I would reverse the lower court’s decisions on the applicabilityof the Act to the defendants for the reasons stated above. :::FOOTNOTES::: FN1 The dissent suggests that our construction of section 604 renders thewords “or was last employed” meaningless as there no longer exists asituation to which the phrase would apply. However, the facts ofBridgestone clearly demonstrate an alternative application.

Caterpillar, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The Department of Employment Security andLynn Doherty, Director of Employment securityand Paul E. Dillefeld, Defendants-Appellees. No. 3971022 Appellate Court of Illinois Third District Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 96–MR–132 Honorable Richard Grawey, Judge Presiding. Date April 22, 1999 Caterpillar, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The Department of Employment Security andLynn Doherty, Director of Employment securityand Steven J. Cordle, Defendants-Appellees. Appellate Court of Illinois Third District Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 96–MR–133 Honorable Richard Grawey, Judge Presiding. Caterpillar, Inc.,Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The Department of Employment Security andLynn Doherty, Director of Employment securityand Allana S. Thomas,Defendants-Appellees. Appellate Court of Illinois Third District Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 96–MR–136 Honorable Richard Grawey, Judge Presiding. Caterpillar, Inc.,Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The Department of Employment Security andLynn Doherty, Director of Employment securityand Ronald D. McGrane,Defendants-Appellees. Appellate Court of Illinois Third District Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 96–MR–408 Honorable Richard Grawey, Judge Presiding. Caterpillar, Inc.,Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The Department of Employment Security andLynn Doherty, Director of Employment securityand Ronald D. Roberts,Defendants-Appellees. Appellate Court of Illinois Third District Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 96–MR–415 Honorable Richard Grawey, Judge Presiding. Caterpillar, Inc.,Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The Department of Employment Security andLynn Doherty, Director of Employment securityand Michael S. Steagall,Defendants-Appellees. Appellate Court of Illinois Third District Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 96–MR–430 Honorable Richard Grawey, Judge Presiding. Date April 22, 1999
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