Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Right-to-Work Issue an Enigma to Many

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Right-to-Work Issue an Enigma to Many

Article excerpt

What's all this fuss about right to work and what does it mean to the average Oklahoman?

Despite all the sloganeering over the hot-button issue of the 2000 Oklahoma Legislature, both sides admit the right-to-work issue is an enigma to many.

"Even some of my members have trouble with it," says Jimmy C. Curry, president of the Oklahoma AFL-CIO, the umbrella labor organization.

Workers cannot be forced to join a labor union in Oklahoma or any other state, with or without a right-to-work law. Compulsory unionism is prohibited by federal law.

What a right-to-work law would do is outlaw so-called security clauses that are negotiated by unions and management and require the withholding of dues from the checks of all employees, including non- union members.

Some workers say they are philosophically opposed to unions and should not have to pay dues. Union backers, however, say it is just as unfair for non-union workers to get "a free ride," since the courts have required unions to represent the grievances of all workers.

The politically charged issue was debated in the state Senate last week as Republicans tried unsuccessfully send it to a statewide vote. A majority of Democrats opposed the move.

A right-to-work law would not affect about half of the 221,000 union members in Oklahoma, which is less than 10 percent of the state's work force. They operate under contracts without security clauses.

It could produce a significant loss of leverage, however, for some unions, such as the United Auto Workers, which has a security clause in its contract with General Motors in Oklahoma City.

Traditionally, unions without security clauses have fewer members -- and thus less bargaining power -- than those who operate as "a union shop."

A right-to-work law also does not apply to public workers or those who are governed by the National Railway Act, such as airline employees and others in transportation industries, Curry said.

Ron Cupp, an official with The State Chamber of Commerce, sees little difference between being required to join a union and being required to pay dues.

"You are either paying dues against your will or you join the union," he said.

The State Chamber is a proponent of a plan to submit the question to a statewide vote. The Chamber represents employers, many of whom would rather not deal with labor unions, officials say.

It is armed with statistics showing that most states with high economic growth in recent decades -- especially in the Sun Belt -- have right-to-work laws.

Opponents, however, cite other statistics that show the majority of high-income states do not have such laws.

It's a no-brainer that employees with union contracts make more than non-union workers, on the whole, Curry says.

Cupp could not cite a cause-and-effect factor that ensures that a right-to-work state would improve its per capita income. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.