In Defense of Collective Bargaining
A team of OPBA attorneys recently completed a lengthy odyssey when the Ohio Supreme Court refused to accept for review the appeal of the City of Munroe Falls (The “City”) in the case captioned City of Munroe Falls v. State Employment Relations Board, et al., Case No. 13-0266 (2013).
The case began in the spring of 2010, when the City, for the first time, refused to bargain with the OPBA concerning a successor contract for a bargaining unit of Sergeants.
The City initially claimed it had no duty to bargain because the bargaining unit only contained one member and, thus, was not subject to the Collective Bargaining Act - - R.C. Chapter 4117, purportedly due to the fact that it could not “collectively” bargain with a unit containing only one member.
In response to the City’s refusal to bargain, the OPBA filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge (the “Charge”) with the State Employment Relations Board (“SERB”), on or about September 10, 2010.
SERB investigated the OPBA’s Charge and on October 14, 2010, determined that there existed probable cause to believe that the City violated R.C. §§4117.11(A)(1) & (A)(5) by refusing to bargain a successor contract for the Sergeant’s bargaining unit.
As the case at SERB proceeded through the hearing process, the City’s theory of the case took an interesting turn. In addition to its more pedestrian arguments that single member bargaining units abated as a matter of law, the City began to broadly also assert that R.C. Chapter 4117 was unconstitutional, in that it allegedly violated Section 3, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution and that it was an improper delegation of legislative authority.
On or about July 12, 2011, SERB ruled in favor of the OPBA and ordered the City, inter alia, to bargain a successor contract, in good faith, with the OPBA for the Sergeant’s Bargaining Unit. In doing so, SERB ignored the City’s constitutional arguments.
The City timely appealed SERB’s ruling to the Summit County Court of Common Pleas and renewed all of its former arguments, including its claims that Chapter 4117 was unconstitutional.
On or about February 6, 2012, Judge Tammy O’Brien upheld the SERB decision in favor of the OPBA and, notably, ruled in favor of the constitutionality of Chapter 4117, by stating at p. 10 of her Order:
The Supreme Court of Ohio addressed constitutional arguments like those presented by Munroe Falls, in Rocky River v. State Emp. Relations Bd., 43, Ohio St.3d 1, 539 NE.2d 103 (1989). The Court held in Rocky River:
The Ohio Public Employees’ Collective Bargaining Act R.C. Chapter 4117 *** [is] constitutional as [it] falls with the General Assembly’s authority to enact employee welfare legislation pursuant to Section 3, Article II of the Ohio Constitution, Section 3, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution, home-rule provision, may not be interpreted to impair, limit or negate the Act. (Citations omitted). Rocky River has not been overruled and remains good law.
The City then appealed to the Summit County Court of Appeals.
On December 31, 2012, the Appeals Court affirmed the decision below, while stating, at pages 8-9 of its Judgment Entry:
Munroe Falls asserts in its fourth assignment of error that the lower court erred in concluding that R.C. Chapter 4117 does not violate the Ohio Constitution. We do not agree.
We note that Munroe Falls does not point to a particular section in R.C. Chapter 4117 that it believes is unconstitutional; instead, it broadly asserts the entire Chapter is unconstitutional. We are mindful that “[s]tatutes are presumed to be constitutional unless shown beyond a reasonable doubt to violate a constitutional provision.” (Internal quotations and citations omitted.) Nitchman v. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 146 Ohio App. 3d 315, 317 (9th Distr. 2001).
Essentially Munroe Falls asserts that R.C. Chapter 4117 violates Section 3, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution and is an improper delegation of legislative authority. . . .
Rocky River has not been overruled, and, thus, this Court is bound to apply the law as set forth by the Supreme Court of Ohio. As the Supreme Court has already determined that Chapter 4117 is constitutional and has not reversed its position on this issue, Munroe Falls’ argument concerning Section 3, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution is without merit. See id.
With respect to Munroe Falls’ assertion that R.C. Chapter 4117 represents an improper delegation of legislative authority, we are likewise not persuaded.
In the winter of 2013, the City attempted to appeal this case to the Ohio Supreme Court. As previously stated, the Ohio Supreme Court refused to accept jurisdiction of the case, by Entry dated May 8, 2013.
Thus, the foregoing three-year ordeal concluded with a significant victory for OPBA members and other public employees, as another challenge to the continued viability of the Collective Bargaining Act was completely rebuked.
 The City’s position was disingenuous, at best, given the fact that the unit had only contained one member since at least 2004 and the City had previously bargained a contract with the OPBA for the one person unit.
 Ironically, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Andy Douglas, the author of the Rocky River decision, guided and advised the team of OPBA attorneys working on the Munroe Falls case.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 24 September 2013 05:15)