Senate Panel Approves Right-to-Work Bill
Full Senate likely to vote next week; House still in limbo
Protesters gather at the Indiana Statehouse to oppose right-to-work legislation. (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
A Senate committee has passed a controversial right-to-work bill.
The panel voted 6-4 to prohibit unions from forcing nonmembers to pay at least a portion of union dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining.
Greenwood Republican Brent Waltz was the only senator to cross party lines, though he doesn't rule out voting for the bill in the full Senate. Waltz says he's unpersuaded the bill would be either as beneficial or as harmful as activists on either side of the issue claim. But he says he'll seek to amend the bill to exclude building trades.
Supporters of the bill brought the president of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce to the statehouse to boast about his state's economic gains since the state became the 22nd and last to enact right-to-work in 2001.
University of Oregon economist Gordon Lafer counters that one-third fewer companies have moved into Oklahoma since the law was passed. He says more positive statistics, from job creation to increases in per-capita income, ignore dozens of other contributors, from Oklahoma's warmer climate to soaring oil and gas prices.
Members of the House Labor Committee joined their Senate counterparts for the hearing but could not vote. A three-day walkout by House Democrats means House bills have yet to be formally assigned to committees.