U.S. judge upholds right-to-work law; appeal pushed</font> 2002-06-07 By John Greiner The Oklahoman A federal judge Thursday upheld the constitutionality of Oklahoma's new right-to-work law, but the legal battle isn't over. Jimmy Curry, president of the Oklahoma State AFL-CIO, said he's fairly certain U.S. District Judge Frank Seay's ruling validating right to work in Oklahoma will be appealed. "We think he's wrong, and we'll be talking to different plaintiffs about a possible appeal," Curry said. Gov. Frank Keating on Thursday said Seay's ruling is great news for the people of Oklahoma who went to the polls Sept. 25 and voted for the proposal. "The will of the people has spoken and right to work is officially law in the state of Oklahoma," Keating said. "I commend Judge Seay for his decision, and I look forward to the economic benefits right to work will bring to Oklahoma in the coming years. "There were thousands of Oklahomans who worked tirelessly for the passage of this law, and they are the ones who deserve credit. Oklahoma is on the move and right to work is helping lead the way." On Sept. 25, more than 54 percent of Oklahoma voters approved placing right-to-work language in the Oklahoma Constitution. The right-to-work law prohibits requiring an employee to pay dues or a bargaining service fee to a union as condition of employment. Federal law requires a union to represent a worker even if the employee is not a dues-paying member. Seven labor organizations and a Tulsa pipeline services company filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Oklahoma, saying the right-to-work law violates the U.S. Constitution and some parts of the Oklahoma Constitution. Seay ruled only on the federal questions. He rejected the union contention that the entire Oklahoma act should be invalidated because two minor provisions of the act are invalid under federal law. "Oklahoma's right-to-work law withstands constitutional scrutiny," Seay ruled. The invalid provisions of the Oklahoma law, which Seay termed minor, involved using union hiring halls and payroll deduction of union dues. The federal Labor Management Act permits exclusive union hiring halls, provided those halls do not discriminate between members and non- members, Seay said. Federal law also permits payroll deduction, he said. John Hermes, an Oklahoma City attorney representing Keating in the lawsuit, said the defendants conceded those two provisions were pre-empted by federal law. "We feel good about it," Hermes said. "We think from our perspective, it's a great victory for Oklahoma. The governor is very excited." Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said the important thing is that like every other right-to- work law, employees who work for companies cannot be compelled in Oklahoma to support or join a union to keep a job. "Big labor's trumped-up lawsuit was just another insult to the voters of Oklahoma who rejected the unions' cynical campaign lies and tactics last fall," Gleason said. State Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau Wynn said the judge made the right call. "I'm gratified on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who approved the measure last September," she said. Oklahomans rejected right to work in a statewide election in 1964, but the issue never went away. Efforts to pass right-to-work legislation were rejected by the Legislature in past years. In the 2001 legislative session, Senate leader Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, assigned the right-to-work proposal to a committee friendly to the issue. The committee easily passed it. The proposal then passed the Senate and the House, paving the way for the statewide election.