Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oklahoma Law Allowing Municipal Employees to Unionize Found Unconstitutional

Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of CITY OF ENID v. PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RELATIONS BOARD. The issue in question was whether the Oklahoma Municipal Employee Collective Bargaining Act, 11 O.S.Supp.2004, §§ 51-200, et seq., was a special law prohibited by the Oklahoma Constitution, Article 5, § 46. Article 5, § 46, provides in pertinent part:
The Legislature shall not, except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, pass any local or special law authorizing:
. . .
Regulating the affairs of counties, cities, towns, wards, or school districts; . . . .

The Act granted qualifying municipal employees the right to organize and choose representation for the purpose of collective bargaining and required municipal employers to recognize, negotiate and bargain with employee representatives. However, it defined municipal employers to be those municipalities with populations greater than 35,000. This limitation made the Act only applicable to eleven Oklahoma municipalities. The court held that because the Act did not apply to all cities in the state, it was a special law prohibited by the Oklahoma Constitution, Article 5, § 46. The court also held that the constitutionally-offensive language is an integral part of the Act and cannot be severed. Therefore, the act is ineffective until the constitutionally-offensive language is removed by the legislature.


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