County Council majority casts support to Right to Work bill

GEORGETOWN – State Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, believes the State of Delaware and Sussex County in particular should follow the lead of Tennessee, Florida and Texas – among the 25 Right to Work states.

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State Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, addressed Sussex County Council May 5 on Right to Work legislation is sponsoring.

“When I look at the State of Delaware … over the last 16 to 18 years we have lost about 26,000 manufacturing jobs. It has been a tremendous downfall of our state in losing manufacturing,” said Rep. Dukes at the May 5 Sussex County Council meeting. “I believe that Right to Work gives us an opportunity to bring in manufacturing jobs that without right to work (companies) may not even look to Delaware. Especially, I think it can really impact Sussex County.”

County Council’s Republican majority agrees. And by a 4-1 vote, Council pledged its official support for House Bill 87, a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Dukes and Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View that in a nutshell would allow each municipality and each county to create Right to Work zones.

“I think there is evidence that right to work legislation does work,” said County Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View. “Anything we can do in the State of Delaware that would encourage manufacturing jobs, I believe this is a good tool. I can’t believe Republican, Democrat … anybody should be against it.”

Joan Deaver of Lewes, the lone Democrat on Council, is. She cast the “no” vote.

“Yes the economy is terrible. And we have few industrial jobs but that is true of the country, not just us,” said Ms. Deaver. I don’t see where we are in such a terrible position that we have to sacrifice workers’ pay to try to make it right. I don’t agree with it.”

In principle, Right to Work affirms to every American the right to work for a living without being compelled to belong to a union.

“Right to Work simply is a law that guarantees no person is compelled as a condition of employment to join or not to join or to pay dues to a union,” Rep. Dukes said.

“I have heard that this is a union busting opportunity. Well, you know what, how about an opportunity for somebody to provide for their own family. That is a busting of that,” said County Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford.  “Where is that in this discussion? There are families in Sussex County that are desperate and have great needs and would love the opportunity to work. But yet the opportunities are not being presented because some people out of Dover and some people that are attempting to stronghold their pocketbooks … are forgetting about the people.”

Mr. Arlett continued. “One thing that I have not heard as of yet here this morning or even previously in my readings through Right to Work, is what about the rights of the people? I think that is the most important process of all, is we should be a right to choose state,” he said. “The choice should lie with that of the employee. End of story. If they choose to be part of a union or not, it should be up to them.”

“It does give the employee the ability to decide to be a union member or not. Also this bill does allow the county to create Right to Work zones,” said County Council President Michael Vincent, R-Seaford.

Right-to-work provisions exist in 25 states, predominantly in the southern and western U.S. as well as several Midwestern states.

“A year and half ago I traveled to the State of Tennessee for a conference and I met there with legislators from all over the country. One of the topics of discussion was the Right to Work initiative and Right to Work legislation and laws,” said Rep. Dukes. “I found out very quickly that Tennessee is a Right to Work state. And I was amazed as I was there at this conference … about how Right to Work has impacted the state of Tennessee while most of the country was suffering during our recent downfall of the economy. Tennessee responded much quicker than just about every state and they’ve had a tremendous turn in the economic status of their state because of Right to Work.”

Ms. Deaver asked if unions are going to stifle jobs.

“I did not say that unions would stifle jobs,” said Rep. Dukes. “I think the trend when you look at the 25 states – the economy of Tennessee, Florida and Texas – which are Right to Work states I think it creates an environment that is much more welcoming.”

“For who?” said Mr. Deaver.

“For the state … employers within the state,” Rep. Dukes said.

“See, I am considering the workers, too, because I represent all of them,” said Ms. Deaver.

“Why are people moving south, where there is Right to Work,” said County Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown. “I have nothing against unions. I belonged to the Teamsters, I belonged to UAW. I can tell you about a half dozen unions I belonged to in my life. But when unions have no regrets whether you make more or lose money …”

“The most notable of states that would be looked as probably what we would think of as high union states would be Nevada, Iowa and Michigan,” said Rep. Dukes. “But these states still maintain about 4.5 million union jobs. So it hasn’t had an impact on that.”

Some common beliefs of RTW proponents are that it is a fundamental right, unions are in essence businesses and should be “fired” if not delivering service or fair value, and RTW states employ a higher percentage of workers.

Beliefs of RTW opponents are that wages in RTW states are lower, while injury rates in RTW states are higher than states without RTW provisions, according to the AFL CIO.

Deputy Administrator Hal Godwin, Sussex County government’s voice in Legislative Hall in Dover, noted that historically Right to Work has not mustered much General Assembly support.

In fact, Senate Bill 54 – proposed legislation that would empower the Delaware Economic Development Director to establish Right to Work zones – is stalled in committee, Rep. Dukes said.

In a separate vote, County Council, again by 4-1 margin, voted to oppose SB 54 should it be resuscitated.

“One individual shall not have the authority to make good of losers and winners in any place of this state. And that’s really what that does,” said Mr. Arlett.

“Senate Bill 54 puts all decision making hands at the state level,” Mr. Cole said. “I’ve always felt that local government has a better feel of what the local needs are. Making local decisions at the local level are more effective than when they are done at a distance; it could be Dover or Washington (D.C.).”

“I’m likely to go up there and testify the other way,” said Ms. Deaver, who voted no to opposing SB 54. “I’m in the minority I want to make sure I am heard.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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