OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed itself Tuesday and upheld a state law allowing municipal employees to unionize in cities with populations exceeding 35,000 people.
Opponents had claimed it was unconstitutional to pass a law that would apply only to the state's 11 largest cities.
``Under the evidence in the record before us, we determine that the act's population classification is not arbitrary or capricious,'' the court ruled in a 5-4 decision. ``It is rationally related to the stated purpose of the legislation.
``We further determine that the act grants the same privileges to all municipalities of the same class. It manifests uniform application to all class members.''
The opinion reversed the summary judgment of Oklahoma County District Judge Daniel Owens and sent the case back to Owens' court with directions to enter a judgment in favor of the Public Employees Relations Board and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.''
Tuesday's ruling, written by Justice James Winchester, reversed a 5-4 decision in July by Justice Stephen Taylor.
The court had reviewed the case on a rehearing petition filed by PERB and AFSCME.
The original case was brought by the City of Enid, which challenged the constitutionality of the act. Several other cities also sued.
Blaine Rummel, spokesman for AFSCME, said the court's latest decision ``is a historic victory for freedom'' and the union's efforts to improve city jobs and services.
Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, who wrote the law, had similar comments.
``All employees should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether to join a union. The Supreme Court clearly backs that freedom,'' Gumm said.
The opinion strikes down a ruling that the act is a special law prohibited by the state Constitution because it applies only to 11 cities that meet the population threshold.
The high court had earlier enjoyed PERB from enforcing the law, with Taylor writing that the law unconstitutionally gives special treatment to employees of a small group out of more than 150 cities in Oklahoma.