RIGHT to Work election less than 2 weeks away

Monday, September 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

In about two weeks, Oklahomans go to the polls to decide for or against Right to Work. The issue is listed on the ballot as State Question 695, and if it passes, people could work at a business where a union is present without having to join the union or pay union dues.

Only 6% of Oklahomans are in traditional labor unions. But as a Tulsa businessman told News on Six reporter Paul Serrell, all of us could be affected by Right to Work. “That up there is insulation." For construction company owner Ray Miller, Right to Work means the right to do what he feels best for his business.

He says when he took over Fleming Construction Company in the early '70s, all the workers in unions. And according to Miller, that was bad for business. "Our union bids were considerably higher than the people competing against me non-union, I couldn't get the work." And that's when Miller started battling unions for the right to hire non-union labor for certain jobs. Miller says for companies like his to grow larger, hire more employees and build up Oklahoma's tax base, they've got to have the best workers at the best price whether they're union or not. "It wasn't like I was trying to completely get away from unions. I wanted to pick the unions that were competitive and did the job." Paul Serrell: "Because if you're not able to be competitive in industry?" Miller: "I'm out of business then I don't have employees and I don't take care of my employees."

But that's where Right to Work opponents like State Senator Gene Stipe of McAlester disagree. He says if unions lose members or money under right to work, they might not have the power to protect employees like these from harder work with lower pay. "If you go down to Chaddick Park of McAlester you'll see the wall of memories to coal miners killed in the mines. Some of them were just 12 and 14 working in the mines unions stopped that."

Both sides of the Right to Work debate can make arguments that sound good and actually make sense if you listen to them long enough, the for individual voters is which point of view do you believe in most? Once you've determined that you may have just how you'll vote on election day.

The Right to work election is September 25th.