Columbus, Ohio (March 24, 2003) — Inside sources revealed that union lobbyists have likely convinced Attorney General Jim Petro to refuse to appeal a high-profile Ohio State Supreme Court decision that voided the state’s Open Contracting Act, a popular measure that bans mandatory union-only contracts or project labor agreements (PLAs) on taxpayer-funded construction projects.
The attorney general faces a deadline of Thursday, March 27, to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council v. Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners. If Petro does not appeal the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, union officials will be able to force independent workers and contractors across Ohio to submit to compulsory unionism on all state-funded construction projects.
By failing to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, Attorney General Petro will also put himself directly at odds with policies laid down by President George W. Bush – the leader of Petro’s own political party – who signed an Executive Order prohibiting the use of discriminatory union-only PLAs on federally funded construction projects. The Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling explicitly parted with a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling upholding the widely supported Bush directive.
“Aside from betraying Ohio’s taxpayers and independent workers who have much at stake in this legal battle, the attorney general risks alienating key players who will have tremendous influence over whether he will win his party’s nomination for governor,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Meanwhile, there is no political gain in trying to appease union officials who will never support Petro in any meaningful way.”
Currently, Right to Work supporters and non-union employees and contractors across Ohio are mobilizing to counter the pressure union political operatives are putting on Petro. The attorney general’s office has already been contacted by thousands of constituents demanding he support a policy of open contracting in public works projects.
A project labor agreement 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 December 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed an appellate court ruling upholding the Act. Attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation participated as an amicus curiae in support of the Open Contracting Act, arguing that the state legislature has the right not to finance a form of compulsory unionism with public construction funds.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.