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Who Runs the Shop Things Public Officials Cant Say About Public Employees

The Oregon Supreme Court has just ruled that a City Council or other government body can be
punished for committing an unfair labor practice if one of its members criticizes the public
employee unions to which the citys employees belong.

In AFSCME Council 75 v. City of Lebanon, 360 Or 809 (2017) the Court held that the City could
be sanctioned for an unfair labor practice if one member of the Council, in a letter to the editor of
the local paper explicitly sent as a private citizen and not as a city council member, made any
statement that . . . city employees would have reasonably believed that she acted on behalf of
the city in urging those employees to decertify the union.

Elected public officials are supposedly responsible for management of the tax revenues received
by the government entities they run. A significant portion of those revenues in Oregon are spent
on the incomes and benefits of public employees who work or worked for state and local
government entities. In fact, the relationship between government and government employees
has become a significant and persistent issue of discussion. Many blame the burden of paying the
wages and benefits of both past and present public employees for the projected revenue shortfall
in the state and many local government budgets.

A public officials thoughts concerning public employees unions would logically be an issue of
great interest to the voting public. It would also seem as though the First Amendment prohibition
against limiting speech would most aptly prevent a court from punishing the speech of elected
public officials about issues of public importance. Apparently, the public employees who sit on
the Oregon Supreme Court think differently.

3/7/2017 Lawrence B. Hunt of Hunt & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved.