28 June 2003
Another glitch in right-to-work
For the next few hours, anyway, the right-to-work law passed by referendum in Oklahoma in 2001 is unconstitutional.
What happened was this: a construction union sued an electric contractor whose workers it was expected to represent, and filed a subsequent suit requesting that the law be overturned. The latter suit got to the docket, and when the judge noted that the contractor had not responded to the suit against it, he issued an order barring enforcement of the law. The order is widely seen as temporary, and as soon as both sides have their ducks in a row, the cases will be heard and decided.
This is the small game. In the bigger game, the state Supreme Court will hear a more serious constitutional challenge to the law; a labor attempt to overturn the law got as high as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which dropped it back on the state. I'm not taking any bets on that one either. Philosophically, it's hard to object to right-to-work, but it's equally hard to reconcile it with laws which require that the union represent workers which aren't its members. And the proponents of State Question 695, the referendum that started it all, so preposterously oversold its benefits one constant assertion was that a number of industrial concerns had been considering Oklahoma for plant locations but decided against it because of the lack of right-to-work, though none of the people making that assertion was ever able to name even one such firm that it's tempting, at least to me, to hope that the law is overturned, just to see their reaction.
(Disclosure: While I am not currently in such a position, I have worked in union shops before, and have paid dues for the ostensible privilege.)