Oklahoma Battles to Save Right-to-Work Law on Sovereign Immunity Grounds

Attorneys for the State of Okla. and Gov. Frank Keating (R) have filed a motion to dismiss a union-led lawsuit that seeks to overturn the State’s recently ratified Right-to-Work law. Under the Eleventh Amendment and the Sovereign Immunity grounds, the State argues that the federal district court does not have jurisdiction.  The suit is before U.S. Dist. Judge Frank H. Seay (E.D. Okla.). The civil rights suit claims that Okla.’s Right-to-Work law violates the plaintiffs’ federal rights under the U.S. Constitution and an array of federal statutes. The State maintains, however,  that the law is clear and a state cannot be held liable for an alleged civil rights violation. “As the state is not a ‘person’ subject to suit, there is no  material fact at issue which would entitle plaintiffs to any relief  against the state,” the motion says. The motion to dismiss is limited to only immunity claims, with defendants not waiving other potential grounds for dismissal. The court had scheduled a status conference in the case for Jan. 4. [Daily Oklahoman 12/19/01]

Honolulu Local Liable for Additional $544,000
On Dec. 13, U.S. Dist. Judge Helen W. Gillmor (D. Haw., Clinton) ordered Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 996 in Honolulu to pay Steam Press Holdings Inc. an additional $544,130 for interest and penalties the cleaning firm was required to pay as the result of wrongful actions of the union. In Sept., Gillmor awarded the firm nearly $1 million after finding union officers had shown “reckless disregard” as to the truth of statements they made concerning the company’s financial health during contract negotiations and in advance of a strike vote. Gillmor had said that the firm could receive an additional award based on a showing of emergency loan interest and interest on existing debt that the company incurred as the result of the union’s action. The supplemental award also includes future additional unemployment insurance taxes and interest and penalties on those taxes paid by the firm, according to  Steam Press’ attorney Lynne T. Toyofuku of Dwyer Schraff Meyer Jossem & Bushnell in Honolulu. [BNA 12/24/01]