RIGHT To Work debate continues

Friday, September 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Both sides in the Right to Work battle are pouring it on. New TV ads are running and state leaders are debating the potential benefits and drawbacks of the plan.

Two big-name Oklahoma politicians worked to lure votes from a group of realtors in McAlester Thursday. The News on Six's Paul Serrell tells us what happened. McAlester was built on the backs of laborers like the ones enshrined in a downtown park. But what role should organized labor play in a modern economy? That was the question at a Right to Work forum featuring State Senator Gene Stipe and Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau Wynn.

Under state question 695, people, by law, could work at a business where a union is present without having to join the union or pay union dues. Stipe argued that would weaken unions, and tempts industrial and manufacturing companies to lower the wages and benefits of their workers. Stipe says the claim these businesses will raise people's pay is false. "If you believe they're doing this they're spending up millions to raise your wages and raise the wages of working people of this area then I'll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge any time you want to buy. All they need to raise the wages is to write a check. They don't need an election." But Wynn says for people to get higher paying jobs in Oklahoma, more companies need to move here creating stiffer competition for employees. She says many businesses won't even consider Oklahoma without Right to Work. "Right now as Oklahomans as we stand together. We are 46th in this nation in annual wages. 46th. You deserve more than that." Voters like Kristy Harris say the competing TV ads are making it tough to make a decision. "I just want to make sure I'm hearing the truth from both sides cause I just want to make the right decision and you hear the extremes from both sides."

There are currently 21 states with Right to Work laws on the books, including neighboring states, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas. It's not yet clear whether, whether Oklahoma will be joining them because both sides still have almost three weeks to lure your vote.

The News on Six asked Right to Work supporters to verify their claim that many businesses won't come to Oklahoma without a Right to Work law. In response, they released a letter from a Dallas consulting company that says it's done work for AT&T, Boeing, Pepsi and other large firms. The company is called the Pathfinders and it says quote: "Over the last five years, we have encountered growing resistance from a major share of our clients to locations in states that have not enacted Right to Work provisions.” Pathfinders says five of its major clients have bypassed Oklahoma in the last year and a half, although it did not name those businesses.

Oklahoma's Right to Work vote is September 25th.