Poll: Right-to-work election a tossup

Sunday, September 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(TULSA) - As the right-to-work election nears, the campaign remains close as a new poll indicates Oklahomans are split on the issue.

State Question 695 would prohibit labor contracts that contain clauses requiring all employees of a particular company to pay union dues or fees.

Voters will decide the issue in a Sept. 25 special election.

Of the 534 respondents to the Oklahoma Poll - conducted for the Tulsa World - 46 percent said they would vote against SQ 695, while 45 percent said they would vote for it.

Nine percent of respondents were undecided.

``It's a tossup,'' said Al Soltow, a poll consultant and economist and director of research at the University of Tulsa. ``That 9 percent undecided is enough to decide it.''

But Soltow said anything can happen in the remaining days of the campaign, especially as the two campaigns intensify their get-out-the-vote efforts.

The poll, conducted during the first week of September, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Soltow said the difference is considered statistically insignificant.

Business interests, including chambers of commerce, are the prime movers behind right to work in Oklahoma. They contend it will bring more industry to the state and that competition for jobs will lead to higher pay.

But unions - including those representing firefighters, police and teachers - are the main opposition. They argue such laws weaken unions and are unfair, since federal law requires them to represent all workers.

They also say right-to-work laws depress wages and reduce benefits.

The Oklahoma Poll indicates the two sides are lining up along political, geographic and economic class lines.

In Tulsa, just over half of respondents said they will vote against right to work. Forty-three percent said the would vote for it, while 6 percent said they were undecided.

In Oklahoma City, however, the numbers were almost opposite. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they would vote for SQ 695, while 40 percent would vote against it.

Nearly half of respondents in Tulsa said they or a family member belonged to a labor organization, compared with only 40 percent in Oklahoma City.

Republicans also were much more likely than Democrats to vote for right to work, as were older and wealthier respondents, the poll indicated.