TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Saying a right-to-work law would boost the economy and enhance freedom, Gov. Frank Keating officially began the campaign Tuesday for a statewide referendum to ban mandatory union dues.
``This is not anti-union,'' Keating said in a news conference. ``What this is is pro-individual and pro-freedom. This is an opportunity for our citizens to make more money.''
A Sept. 25 special election has been set to decide whether Oklahoma joins 21 other states that have laws banning labor contracts that require all workers to pay union dues.
Proponents argue a right-to-work law would generate economic growth. Opponents say it will lower wages and point to statistics showing 18 of the top 20 states in per capita income are non-right-to-work states.
Keating said many companies that are considering locating plants in Oklahoma decide against it because the state doesn't have a right-to-work law. He didn't give any specific examples.
George Barkes, a union carpenter, also attended the news conference. He challenged Keating's contention that a right-to-work law would help workers.
``Right to work will just create a lot of low paying jobs,'' he said. He said some of the state's biggest employers, including American Airlines and General Motors, have workforces that are required to pay union dues.
Leaders of the right-to-work campaign were listed as U.S. Sen. Don Nickles, Frank McPherson, former chairman of Kerr-McGee Corp.; Paula Marshall-Chapman, chief executive officer of Bama Pies in Tulsa and Ken Fegeson, chairman of the National Bank of Commerce in Altus.
The Right to Work for Oklahomans campaign billed itself as a bipartisan group, but all current state, congressional and legislators listed as supporters are Republicans.
In addition to Keating and Nickles, they include Sen. Jim Inhofe, the five GOP members of the congressional delegation, Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau Wynn and Corporation Commissioners Ed Apple and Denise Bode.
Two former Democratic officials were listed _former Oklahoma City Mayor Andy Coats and former U.S. Rep. Bill Brewster of Marietta.