Ohio Supreme Court to decide if picketing law constitutional

By Peter H. Milliken



The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a portion of the state collective-bargaining law that requires a union to give 10 days’ notice to an employer before the union can do informational picketing is constitutional.

The case arises from a June decision by the Youngstown-based 7th District Court of Appeals that the 10-day notice requirement violates free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The appeal was one of only six statewide the top court agreed to hear in its Wednesday announcement.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 7th District Court of Appeals arose from peaceful informational picketing by the Mahoning County Education Association of Developmental Disabilities.

The picketing occurred outside a Nov. 5, 2007, public meeting of the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities in Austintown, while the union and the board were negotiating a new contract.

The pickets carried signs saying “Settle now” and “MEADD deserves a fair contract.” The union represents teaching and nonteaching employees of the board.

The union appealed to the 7th District Court after the State Employment Relations Board and Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court upheld an unfair labor practice complaint by the DD board concerning the picketing.

The DD board appealed the 7th District Court decision to the state’s top court.

The 7th District Court ruled the 10-day notice requirement “is not necessary to serve a compelling government interest and is not narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.”

The 7th District appeals judges added: “Ten days is a long time to force a public employee and her union to wait to voice an opinion through an informational picket of a board meeting, especially since board meetings are few and far between. And it does not take 10 days to arrange security or prepare a response to publicity.”

In his notice of appeal to the top court, Eugene P. Nevada, of Dublin, Ohio, a lawyer for the DD board, said he was bringing the appeal because the case is “a matter of great general interest” and “raises a substantial constitutional question.”

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