Political activity by city employees- could we have a ruling please?

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

I’ve always been bewildered by the role that union employees play in Dayton politics. Phonebanks staffed by union employees, literature drops, sign distribution, the list goes on.

However, according to the City of Dayton Personnel polices and procedures manual- city employees are forbidden from taking part in any political campaign for elective public office.

I’ve scanned and ocr’d the three page document for you to review: City Political Activities policy

It would also suggest that the circulation of petitions within city hall by elected officials would be a violation, but this is a routine process.

How can unions, such as AFSCME, IAFF, or FOP endorse candidates- if their membership is all city employees?

Why can’t employees, on their own time, participate in the election process- as long as they don’t identify themselves as city employees?

This seems to be an Ohio law, in my quick Google searches- I find that other state, like California allow employees to campaign as long as no government resources are used and they don’t identify themselves as government workers:

You may make political contributions, perform volunteer work, endorse* candidates, and take a
position on a ballot measure, as long as these activities do not involve the use of City
time, property, facilities, or equipment.

http://www.austincc.edu/npo/library/documents/Ethics%20Handbook%20for%20Neighborhood%20Councile%20Governing%20Board%20Members.pdf

Yet, an Ohio State policy seems to be different: http://legal.osu.edu/politicalactivity.php

Any legal geniuses want to weigh in on this?

Thank you.

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4 Responses

  1. Johnathon September 8, 2009 / 11:31 pm
    I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but it seems to me this is unconsitutional. It seems to limit the free speech of any city employee. By allowing city employees who are members of Unions to do something, that non-unionized city employees can’t do, they have essentially made civil rights special rights.
     
    While I am uncertain if the case would pertain to things of this nature, in the city of Cincinnati they passed a law prohibiting people from dispensing free literature on the streets while allowing those who charged for their product to continue to do so. This was challenged, all the way to the US Supreme Court, and ruled unconstitutional.
    The rationale behind this being ruled unconstitutional, was that you cannot limit the rights of one portion of a group … you have to do it to the entirety. While this was a case involving the freedom of the press, more than free speech, I fail to see how the double standard would be viewed any differently on a Constitutional level.
    Legal minds do you agree or disagree?
  2. Drexel Dave Sparks September 9, 2009 / 5:19 am
    Wouldn’t pass constitutionality by a long shot.
    Employees are not allowed to campaign on the job, or using any city property or resources.
    That’s reasonable.
  3. Hall September 9, 2009 / 9:31 am
    I’d love to see an employee disciplined for violating these rules and then see how their union supports them. Of course, it likely depends on who the employee was ‘campaigning’ for !

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