Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Right to Work Begins Session a Dead Horse

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Right to Work Begins Session a Dead Horse

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Gov. Frank Keating has talked incessantly about the need to pass a right-to-work law, but he is no closer to his goal than when he took office almost two years ago.

When the Legislature convenes in February, Keating will call once again for enactment of a law to prohibit labor-management contracts that require the payment of union dues.

"Right to work will always be an arrow in my quiver," Keating said in an interview last week, repeating his argument that such a law is crucial to state growth. But he admits the chances of passage next year are dismal, with little change in the makeup of the 101-member Legislature after the November elections. Indeed, Keating may have lost ground. Many conservative Democratic incumbents have complained bitterly about Keating's personal efforts to defeat them and are not in a mood to help the Republican governor. No issue, with the possible exception of tax cuts, has been pushed more vocally by Keating, who argues Oklahoma is losing jobs every year to neighboring right-to-work states such as Texas and Arkansas. It is a principal reason why Oklahoma's manufacturing industry lags behind most other states in the region, he says. Most Democratic leaders, especially in the Senate, say the importance of right to work is overrated. They contend industries are more interested in education, roads and other issues. Despite all of Keating's jawboning, they say, it was not a pressing issue with voters in the fall elections, and most businessmen seemed more intent on getting workers' compensation rates down. Labor spokesmen have traditionally argued that a right-to-work law will bring mostly low-paying jobs to the state. Keating disputes that, saying many foreign companies simply bypass Oklahoma because they do not want to locate in a state that has "a barrier between workers and management. …

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