Derfler drops "right-to-work" bill in Senate

SALEM - Senate Majority Leader Gene Derfler, R-Salem, introduced a "right-to-work (for less)" bill in the Legislature last week.

Senate Bill (SB) 714 would eliminate public employee union fair share agreements (whereby non-members make payments in lieu of dues for collective bargaining representation) and repeal a state statute relating to dues checkoff by employers.

"It is a clone of Ballot Measure 59 magnified to Frankenstein proportions," said Tim Nesbitt, executive director of the Oregon State Council of Service Employees, referring to a 1998 ballot measure sponsored by Bill Sizemore and his Oregon Taxpayers United that voters rejected.

SB 714 was not filed as a joint resolution, yet it still calls for the bill to be referred to voters at the next general election if passed out of the Senate and House. A referral circumvents the governor, who likely would veto SB 714.

Mary Botkin, a lobbyist for Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said labor had Republican support in defeating Measure 59 "and we expect to have Republican support fighting this bill."

Botkin said lawmakers already have plenty of pressing issues to deal with. "I don't think there are many folks who want to rehash this old battle," she said.

Republicans hold a 17-13 advantage in the Senate and control the House 34-25, with one independent.

Anti-union zealots have been trying unsuccessfully for years to enact a right-to-work law in Oregon. Sizemore, Derfler and gang have focused their attacks on public employees. But if they're successful, private sector unions certainly would be next in line, union officials have said.

And while "right-to-work" has a nice ring to it, the fact is it doesn't provide anyone the right to work, the right to a job, or anything else. It is solely an attack on organized labor.

"Derfler's anti-union bias has no place on the ballot," Nesbitt said. "It's a continuation of the Republican Party's attitude to totally disregard the will of the voters of this state."

Right-to-work laws prohibit employees from negotiating union security agreements with employers. Union security is a provision in a contract whereby all employees and new hires must join the union (which has been elected by a majority vote of employees) within a specified time and retain membership as a condition of employment.

Under right-to-work laws a union must represent employees who refuse to join and pay dues. As a result, the workers pay nothing but are still entitled to full benefits and representation at the expense of dues-paying union members.

Over time, the financial support for the union erodes along with the union's ability to adequately represent workers in dealing with employers and in servicing contracts.

"That's what right-to-work is all about, financially draining unions into oblivion so they won't have the resources they need to protect their members," the Oregon AFL-CIO said.

Twenty-one low-wage states have right-to-work laws.

March 19, 1999 issue

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