State ex rel. Labor Council v. Cleveland

Decision Date15 August 2007
Docket NumberNo. 2006-2056.,2006-2056.
Citation870 N.E.2d 1174,2007 Ohio 3831,114 Ohio St.3d 183
PartiesThe STATE ex rel. MUNICIPAL CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT OPERATORS' LABOR COUNCIL et al. v. CITY OF CLEVELAND et al.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Robert J. Triozzi, Director of Law, Theodora M. Monegan, Chief Assistant Director of Law, and William A. Sweeney, Assistant Director of Law, for respondents.

PER CURIAM.

{¶ 1} This is an original action filed by relator, Municipal Construction Equipment Operators' Labor Council, the certified bargaining representative of construction-equipment operators and master mechanics employed by respondent city of Cleveland, Ohio, and certain individual construction-equipment operators and master mechanics employed by Cleveland. Relators request a writ of mandamus to compel respondents, Cleveland, its mayor, and its city council, to pay the construction-equipment operators and master mechanics the difference between the prevailing wage rates and the lower rates they were paid for the period from May 1, 1994, through February 14, 2005, as well as prejudgment interest on these sums. Municipal Construction and the individual relators also request a writ of mandamus to compel Cleveland to credit the construction-equipment operators and master mechanics with sick leave during the period from October 29, 1980, to February 14, 2005, compensate those employees who missed work due to illness or injury of themselves or a family member to the extent of their accumulated paid sick leave, and pay cash for unused sick-leave hours for those employees who retired from employment with the city during that period. We grant the writ in part and deny it in part.

{¶ 2} Construction-equipment operators and master mechanics employed by the city of Cleveland operate, repair, and maintain heavy construction equipment, including mechanized hoes, loaders, bulldozers, and graders. These employees are referred to as craft employees, building-trade employees, and operating engineers, and they are regular full-time hourly rate employees who are classified as Construction Equipment Operator A, Construction Equipment Operator B, or Master Mechanic.

{¶ 3} In 1979, the Cleveland City Council enacted Ordinance No. 1682-79, which set the hourly wages for various job classifications, including construction-equipment operators and master mechanics. Section 191 of the Cleveland Charter provides that "in the case of employees in those classifications for which the Council provided in 1979 a schedule of compensation in accordance with prevailing wages paid in the building and construction trades, the schedule established by the Council shall be in accordance with the prevailing rates of salary or compensation for such services." Consistent with these provisions, construction-equipment operators and master mechanics were initially paid the prevailing wage rates set forth in certain building agreements. The prevailing wage rate was the sum of the following components: base rate, pension, health and welfare, apprenticeship, and construction industry service program.

State ex rel. Internatl. Union of Operating Engineers, Local 18 v. Cleveland (1992), 62 Ohio St.3d 537, 584 N.E.2d 727

{¶ 4} Cleveland considered International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 18, 18A, 18B, 18C, 18RA, AFL-CIO, an employee organization, to be the representative of the city's construction-equipment operators and master mechanics. Before May 1, 1987, the city paid these workers in conformity with the Construction Employers Association Building Agreement with Local 18. Sometime thereafter, however, the city failed to pay the employees the prevailing wages as set forth in the building agreement.

{¶ 5} In 1989, Local 18 filed a complaint in the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County for a writ of mandamus to compel the city, its city council, and its mayor, to pay the members of Local 18, who were construction-equipment operators and master mechanics employed by the city, back and future wages in accordance with prevailing wage rates paid in private industry, as set forth in Section 191 of the Cleveland Charter. Local 18 and respondents stipulated that Cleveland had not paid these employees prevailing wages since May 1987.

{¶ 6} The court of appeals denied the writ based on its conclusion that Local 18 had an adequate remedy at law by way of filing a charge of unfair labor practice against Cleveland.

{¶ 7} On appeal, we reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and granted a "writ of mandamus directing respondents to comply with city charter Section 191 by paying back and future wages to the city's construction equipment operators and master mechanics, members of [Local 18] in accordance with prevailing wage rates." State ex rel. Internatl. Union of Operating Engineers v. Cleveland (1992), 62 Ohio St.3d 537, 540, 584 N.E.2d 727. We held that because there was no existing collective-bargaining agreement between Cleveland and Local 18, the city had a duty to pay its construction-equipment operators and master mechanics the prevailing wage rates in accordance with Section 191 of the Cleveland Charter. Id. at 540, 584 N.E.2d 727.

Actions after Internatl. Union

{¶ 8} After 1993, Cleveland disputed the prevailing wage rate it was required to pay the construction-equipment operators and master mechanics. Cleveland claimed that it was entitled to deduct certain items from the private-sector prevailing wage rate.

{¶ 9} In 1998, Local 18 filed a motion in the court of appeals for an order for respondents to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of this court's 1992 mandate in Internatl. Union, 62 Ohio St.3d 537, 584 N.E.2d 727. Local 18 claimed that Cleveland had failed to pay the city's construction-equipment operators and master mechanics the prevailing wage rate. Local 18 and Cleveland resolved the contempt action by agreeing to a calculation of the prevailing wage rate that included a deduction for the city's pension contributions. The Local 18 president held a meeting to inform the union members how the prevailing wage rate would be calculated. The employees never authorized Local 18 to negotiate a decrease in their wages.

Consolo v. Cleveland, Cuyahoga App. No. 81117, 2002-Ohio-7065, 2002 WL 31839150

{¶ 10} In 2001, certain construction-equipment operators and master mechanics employed by Cleveland filed a complaint in the common pleas court against the city and Local 18 for declaratory judgment and damages. The employees claimed that the city was obligated to pay them the prevailing wage without any offset for retirement benefit payments, that Local 18 was not their certified exclusive bargaining representative, and that Local 18 had failed to adequately represent them. The employees further claimed that their prevailing wage rate consisted of the rate and benefits contained in the building agreements. Local 18 and Cleveland filed motions to dismiss the employees' action, and the common pleas court dismissed the case because the State Employment Relations Board ("SERB") had exclusive jurisdiction pursuant to R.C. Chapter 4117.

{¶ 11} On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the judgment and held that the common pleas court had erred in dismissing all of the employees' claims because they did not necessarily arise out of or depend upon the collective-bargaining rights conferred by R.C. Chapter 4117. The court of appeals reversed the common pleas court's judgment. Consolo v. Cleveland, Cuyahoga App. No. 81117, 2002-Ohio-7065, 2002 WL 31839150.

Municipal Construction Equipment Operators' Labor Council and Contempt Motion in Internatl. Union

{¶ 12} On January 30, 2003, SERB certified relator Municipal Construction Equipment Operators' Labor Council ("Municipal Construction") as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit including city employees in the classifications of Construction Equipment Operator A, Construction Equipment Operator B, and Master Mechanic.

{¶ 13} In October 2003, Municipal Construction filed a motion in this court in the Internatl. Union case for an order for respondents, Cleveland, the city council, and the mayor, to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for refusing to comply with this court's 1992 writ. Municipal Construction claimed that it filed the motion as the successor in interest to Local 18.

{¶ 14} We found that respondents were not in contempt of the 1992 writ. State ex rel. Internatl. Union of Operating Engineers v. Cleveland, 102 Ohio St.3d 1419, 2004-Ohio-2003, 807 N.E.2d 365.

Consolo v. Cleveland, 103 Ohio St.3d 362, 2004-Ohio-5389, 815 N.E.2d 1114

{¶ 15} On October 20, 2004, we reversed the court of appeals' judgment in Consolo and held that the claims asserted by the Cleveland construction-equipment operators and master mechanics were correctly dismissed by the common pleas court because "[a]ll of the claims asserted by [them] relate to rights created by R.C. Chapter 4117" and "[t]hese claims must be pursued through SERB." Consolo v. Cleveland, 103 Ohio St.3d 362, 2004-Ohio-5389, 815 N.E.2d 1114, ¶ 24. More specifically, we held that the city employees' claim that Cleveland had failed to pay the prevailing wage rates was not ripe for review because SERB had exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the claim:

{¶ 16} "If [the employees'] compensation levels were the result of collective bargaining under R.C. Chapter 4117, then the city's charter provisions would be inapplicable. * * * SERB has exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether collective bargaining occurred.

{¶ 17} "If [the employees] prevail before SERB on their claim that their wages did not result from collective bargaining, then the city charter controls." Id. at ¶ 21-22.

Post-Consolo SERB Actions

{¶ 18} In April 2005, Municipal...

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