Thursday, November 10, 2005

Justice Department Claims Ohio's Union Contract Discriminates On Religious Grounds

The Religious News Service reported yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice is challenging the state of Ohio's collective bargaining contract with 36,000 public employees. It argued in federal court in Columbus that the contract violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by requiring non-union employees to pay a representation fee to a union that advocates positions that the employee objects to on religious grounds.

The suit involves Glen Greenwood, a pollution control worker at the Ohio EPA. He sought to stop paying a representation fee to the union when he learned that it supports abortion and gay rights. Ohio's contract with AFSCME Local 11 only permits state workers to opt out if they belong to a church that historically has held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting unions. Acting U.S. Attorney General Bradley J. Schlozman said the Civil Rights Division wants the exemption expanded to permit any worker who holds a sincere opposition to a union-funded activity to divert his or her representation fee to charity. He contends that the current contract discriminates against those with sincere beliefs who do not belong to churches with long histories of opposing unions.