Right-to-work campaign quiet following terrorist attacks

Saturday, September 15th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The campaign for and against State Question 695 came to a virtual halt last week after the terrorists attacks in New York and Washington.

Both sides curtailed advertising and canceled campaign activities after the attacks, but spokesmen said campaigning will be picking up in the days ahead.

The election is set for Sept. 25.

On Monday, reports filed with the state Ethics Commission showed the campaign will be the most expensive in state history.

Right to Work for Oklahomans showed contributions of $3.8 million and two groups opposing the plan had donations totaling almost $2.8 million. They are Oklahomans for No on S.Q. 695 and the Oklahoma State AFL-CIO Fund.

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

Twenty-one states have right-to-work laws, most passed since enactment of the federal Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. That act prohibited ``closed shops'' whereby employers agreed only to hire only union members. Union shop contracts were permitted after a vote by employees. Under union shops, employees must pay dues but are not required to join a union.

Idaho, in 1986, was the last state to adopt a similar law.

In Oklahoma, less than 9 percent of the workforce is unionized.

Business interests, including chambers of commerce, are the prime movers behind S.Q. 695. They contend it will bring more industry to the state and 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.

Oklahoma ranks 43rd in per capita income in the country, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most states in the region have right-to-work laws, including Arkansas, which ranks 47th in per capita income and Texas, which ranks 25th.

Most high-income states do not have right-to-work laws, but proponents of the state question say many of them are industrial states that are not comparable to Oklahoma.

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