Right-to-work public hearing Tuesday during county council meeting

GEORGETOWN – The agenda for Sussex County Council’s Jan. 2 meeting appears short and sweet.

Expectations are Tuesday’s meeting – punctuated by a 10:45 a.m. public hearing on a proposed right-to-work ordinance – will be long with a full house in the attendance.

The county’s five-member, all-Republican council will receive public commentary on the proposal, which would give workers the right to decide whether to join a union.

Maximum capacity for county council chambers in the County Administration Building on The Circle is 129 persons.

After an ill-fated attempted Oct. 24, the ordinance proposal was formally introduced Oct. 31 by councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, who views right to work as a tool to spur economic growth.

Since then, opponents and supporters of the proposal have weighed in during public commentary at council meetings.

Supporters view right to work as a right for workers and a potential boost to the economy.

Opponents contend right to work is an attempt to disband unions and will hurt, not help the economy.

In America, 28 states have right-to-work statutes. Virginia is among the 28; Delaware and Maryland are not. Most non-right to work states are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and far west, including California.

J. Everett Moore Jr., Sussex County’s attorney, and the Delaware Department of Justice have offered their legal opinions, stating the county does not have legal authority to enact a right-to-work ordinance.

“It is my recommendation and my legal opinion that Sussex County does not have the right under a home rule statute to enact this,” said Mr. Moore at the Oct. 24 council meeting.

Mr. Moore’s opinion was backed by a letter dated Nov. 15 from State Solicitor Aaron Goldstein, written at the request of Delaware Department of Labor Secretary Patrice Gilliam-Johnson.

“We write to express our respectful view that Sussex County Council is without legal authority to enact the Ordinance. Title 9 of the Delaware Code is devoid of any express or implied grant of authority to Sussex County to regulate labor organizations or otherwise affect the employee/employer relationship with respect to collective bargaining,” Mr. Goldstein wrote in the letter.

Mr. Goldstein’s letter included analysis of several legal rulings.

“For more than 50 years, union security agreements requiring compulsory payment of union dues have been legal under federal and state law. Union security agreements exist to ensure that workers who opt not to join a union (yet still reap the benefits of collective bargaining) pay their so-called ‘fair share.’ ‘Fair share’ is a routine feature of collective bargaining across the United States and in the State of Delaware,” Mr. Goldstein’s letter stated. “The ordinance seeks to legally prohibit these kinds of agreements and create individual legal causes of action designed to set aside these bedrock principles of American collective bargaining.”

“We appreciate that our form of government permits, at every level, the opportunity to test new ideas in the crucibles of the legislative and judicial branches.,” Mr. Goldstein wrote. “The Department of Labor did not request, and we have not offered, an opinion about the underlying merits of the proposed ordinance. This letter is for the purpose of indicating our legal opinion that Sussex County Council is without legal authority to enact the ordinance. Under current state law, we believe that only the Delaware General Assembly has the authority to power to enact private or civil law concerning civil relationships in this context.”

Attorney Ted Kittila with the Caesar Rodney Institute said CRI supports the right-to-work statute.

“CRI believes this to be a necessary and power exercise of county council. This right to work statute fits within the general welfare promotion that the county is attempting to here,” said Mr. Kittila during commentary at a county council meeting. “You have the ability to do this. You have the right to do this.”’

On New Year’s Day, the Caesar Rodney Institute via email reaffirmed its support for the right-to-work ordinance.

“Heavily-funded special interest groups are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the right of people in Sussex County to freely join or not join organizations. Requiring employees to join a union and forcibly pay dues may be good for the wallets of 100 percent of special interest leaders, but it’s not necessarily good for 100 percent of working families. We believe that freedom of association is a natural right, and that it is simply wrong to compel people as a condition of accepting and keeping a job to join an organization and force them to pay dues against their will,” the Caesar Rodney Institute team stated. “The data is overwhelming. Most higher growth rates and lower unemployment is occurring in right-to-work areas.  We support measures that will boost jobs for the community. Delaware’s economy has been stuck in neutral for several years. We can do better. The greatest path to prosperity and strongest social safety net is a job!  Bringing right-to-work to communities will help fuel job creation.”

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

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.