Oklahoma Repeals Collective Bargaining Law for City Workers

Oklahoma Rally - April 4

Oklahoma state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, a member of CWA Local 6086, is pretty in pink as she rallies with CWAers and other unions at the capitol on April 4. McIntyre and the senate's 11 other Democrats couldn't stop the Republican majority from passing a union-busting bill this week.

Jeopardizing the wages and benefits of thousands of workers, the Oklahoma Senate voted this week to repeal a collective bargaining law for city employees that CWA helped draft and pass in 2004.

The law required cities with more than 35,000 people to grant bargaining rights to non-uniformed workers. The repeal, which passed along party lines in the GOP-controlled House as well as the Senate, is expected to be signed quickly by Republican Gov. Mary Fallen.

"It's a sad day for everybody here," said CWA Local 6012 President Cindy Mills, whose local represents about 350 workers in Broken Arrow and Stillwater. Their annual contracts expire June 30, but the repeal won't be effective until November.

"We're not giving up," Mills said. "We're going to try to bargain new contracts and lobby the city councils to honor them. It's their choice: the repeal only means they're not required to bargain. But we're going to make sure they see that it's in their best interest to continue working with us, not against us."

CWA members in the two cities are employed in public works, parks and recreation, clerical jobs and even jailing, which is considered a "non-uniformed" job, Mills said. The Broken Arrow unit was certified in 2006; Stillwater in 2008. The law applies to 12 Oklahoma cities in all, affecting thousands of other unionized workers.

CWA District 6 Organizing Coordinator Sandy Rusher and CWA Local 6086, representing Oklahoma state workers, helped draft the 2004 legislation. It included language requiring binding arbitration on issues that couldn't be resolved at the bargaining table.

The repeal strips that away, along with the requirement to bargain. But like Mills, Rusher remains hopeful.

"While both cities opposed the law and their workers organizing, I think we now have settled into a good working relationship with both, and I hope they will agree to continue that," Rusher said.