Tulsa Judge Declares Oklahoma’s Right to Work Law Unconstitutional in Questionable Lawsuit

In a ruling that severely jeopardizes Oklahoma’s recently enacted Right to Work amendment, Judge David Patterson of the Oklahoma State District Court for Tulsa County ruled on June 26 that the constitutional amendment enacted by the voters is somehow unconstitutional.

Judge Patterson issued the order in Eastern Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades Council v. Ralph Pitts, a recently discovered “collusive lawsuit” filed quietly in May with the apparent intention by both parties (union and employer) of voiding the state’s Right to Work law without serious arguments made by a party that sincerely supports the law.

Learning of the stealth suit, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys – representing Stephen Weese, a Tulsa-area employee – filed a motion two weeks ago to intervene in the suit to ensure that the law was vigorously defended. However, the court granted summary judgment for the union and declare that the Right to Work amendment – which protects employees from being fired for refusal to pay union dues – is unconstitutional.

Legal documents show that the employer defendant, electrical contractor Ralph Pitts, is represented by an attorney who has previously represented International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 584, a member of the plaintiff trades council and the “real party in interest” in this lawsuit. This attorney filed only a perfunctory “opposition” to the union’s motion for summary judgment.

Earlier this week, the Foundation filed a formal request under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act with Attorney General Drew Edmondson for all internal documents that reflect discussion as to why the attorney general refused to intervene to defend state law and the will of Oklahoma voters. Aside from telling the media that the attorney general does not “usually” get involved in district court cases challenging the constitutionality of state law, the attorney general’s office has not yet responded to this request. In fact, the attorney general has intervened in similar cases.

“The shenanigans that have taken place in this lawsuit raise serious questions,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the Foundation. “This appears to have been an inside job from the beginning.”

As a “defendant intervenor,” Weese and Foundation attorneys could make arguments to defend his direct financial and liberty interests at stake in the preservation of the Right to Work amendment. Foundation attorneys vow an appeal of the judge’s ruling.  [NRTWLDF, 6/27/03]