Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Right-to-Work Backers Plan Initiative Petition

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Right-to-Work Backers Plan Initiative Petition

Article excerpt

In the past few years, right-to-work hasn't held the fascination as a business issue that it did in the past.

State Rep. Ed Apple, R-Duncan _ who is running for the 4th District U.S. Congressional seat _ this year carried a right-to-work bill, but he got little press and even less attention from legislators, who quickly brushed aside the proposal.

The last time there was a real showdown on right-to-work in the state Legislature was several years ago, when then-House Minority Leader Joe Heaton, R-Oklahoma City, got behind the issue.

That doesn't mean, however, that certain business groups and others aren't still interested in making Oklahoma a right-to-work state. It may mean those groups have accepted the futility of getting it passed in the Legislature.

This week, a news release arrived from a new, Tulsa-based group, Jobs for Oklahomans and Business Success (JOBS). It's headed by Dean Sims, chairman of Public Relations International Ltd., a 29-year-old public relations firm. A random telephone poll conducted by JOBS in 25 cities and towns showed 82.9 percent agreed "it is a right to hold a job whether one belongs to a union or not." Some 11.4 percent said it should not be a right, while 5.7 percent said it didn't matter.

Backers of right-to-work did not reflect an anti-union bias, the release said.

Legislation to guarantee jobs regardless of union affiliation would be supported by 88.6 percent of respondents to the JOBS poll.

Sims is gearing up for an initiative petition to get right-to-work on a state ballot.

"I talk to a lot of company executives with operations in Oklahoma. Whether they're based outside Oklahoma or not, they promised they would support it," he said. "I think it will cost about $3 million before it's done _ we've been trying to raise the money and get it started. We have already put quite a bit of our own money into it, and that's not like me _ but somebody has to get it started."

According to Sims, company executives said Oklahoma would "just remain backward" until it gets a right-to-work law. "And they were not necessarily negative about unions; they just thought it was a healthy thing to have, and we do, too," he said.

"We represent a lot of companies, and wouldn't have gotten into it unless the people of Oklahoma indicated they wanted it."

Sims said he had contacted representatives of other groups working for right-to-work, and they possibly will combine forces. He has asked expert petition drive coordinator Evalena Herrian for a contract to start gathering signatures this fall. Among Herrian's past assignments were petition drives to set congressional term limits, forbid tax increases without a vote of the people and repeal common education House Bill 1017.

"The companies I have talked to are convinced the Legislature is not going to get anything done, so it has to be by initiative petition, and that's what we know pretty well," Sims said. …

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