Supreme Court Arguments to be Heard in Picket Case

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The state’s top court will hear oral arguments next week to determine if union employees picketing during contract negotiations with the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities in 2007 needed to give their employers a 10-day notice before picketing.

Oral arguments are scheduled between the MCBDD and the Mahoning Educators Association of Developmental Disabilities for Wednesday in Bellafontaine. The county is trying to vacate a Seventh District Court of Appeals ruling that sided with MEADD that an unfair labor practice claim by the county should be vacated.

At issue is the constitutionality of a law that requires public workers to provide a 10-day written notice to employers of the planned picket. The MEADD claims the law violates free speech rights and the state claims unions are allowed to exercise their free speech through the picket.

Several different state and national groups on both sides of the argument submitted briefs to the court. The state Attorney General’s office is handling the case for MCBDD.

The union picketed a Nov. 5, 2007 MCBDD meeting at the Centre on Jovitt Court after contract negotiations broke down.

MCBDD then filed a grievance with the State Employment Relations Board because the union failed to provide notice. Mahoning County Judge Maureen Sweeney in 2011 sided with the county and upheld the grievance.

The Seventh District Appeals Court panel ruled in August they believed the notice limited free speech and vacated Sweeney’s ruling and the grievance.

The attorney general’s office argued they believe the 1983 law doesn’t limit free speech because it places no restriction on the picket itself, but only requires unions to give public agencies advanced notice.

The union argued the law restricts free speech based on the speaker. They argued if anyone other than union members wanted to picket, they would be able to without repercussions. Union members’ free speech, they claimed, was limited because they were cited by SERB for a lawful picket.

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