Columbus, Ohio (March 4, 2003) — Today, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation sent a letter calling on Attorney General Jim Petro to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision striking down the state’s highly popular Open Contracting Act.
Last December, in Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council v. Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, the elected judges threw out the Open Contracting Act, which bans mandatory union-only contracts, or project labor agreements (PLAs), on government construction projects.
If the attorney general does not file an appeal by the deadline of March 27, union officials will be able to force workers across Ohio to submit to compulsory unionism on all state construction projects. The National Right to Work Foundation is also contacting thousands of its Ohio supporters, asking them to contact the attorney general and Governor Bob Taft.
“Union lawyers are trying to strip away any protections that workers and taxpayers have from compulsory unionism,” said Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse. “This is an opportunity for Attorney General Petro to defend Ohio’s workers and taxpayers from the numerous abuses associated with union-only PLAs on government construction projects.”
A PLA is a scheme that requires all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, to subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order to work on government-funded construction projects. PLAs usually require contractors to grant union officials monopoly bargaining privileges over all workers; use exclusive union hiring halls; force workers to pay dues as a condition of employment; and pay above-market prices resulting from wasteful work rules and featherbedding.
After the Ohio legislature passed the Open Contacting Act in 1999, union lawyers sued the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners to retain forced unionism on state construction projects. In October 1999, a trial court permanently enjoined enforcement of the law. An Ohio appellate court later reversed the lower court’s decision, ruling that the National Labor Relations Act does not prohibit states from banning government-mandated discriminatory, union-only PLAs on government construction projects.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation participated as an amicus curiae in support of the Open Contracting Act. Foundation attorneys argued that the state legislature has the right not to finance a form of compulsory unionism with public construction funds. Ohio’s intermediate appellate court used the Foundation’s arguments to uphold the law in its now reversed ruling. Foundation attorneys plan to file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Open Contracting Act, if Ohio’s attorney general appeals.