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Senator Shurden Seeks to Repeal Right to Work

Sen. Shurden says right to work has led to the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs rather than real growth.

Oklahoma's right-to-work law could be eliminated by a vote of the people under a Senate joint resolution filed today by Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta.

SJR 27, which is co-authored by Rep. M.C. Leist, D-Morris, and Rep. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, seeks to allow Oklahoma voters an opportunity to repeal the Constitutional right-to-work provision that was approved during the 2001 special election.

Sen. Shurden said that if his right-to-work repealer measure is approved by the legislature, it will appear as a state question on the 2004 general election ballot.

"It's high time that we take another look at what this law is really doing for the working people of Oklahoma," Shurden said.

"All we heard from the Keating administration was that right to work would provide workers with more freedom and lead to another land run of companies that would create employment. But the truth of the matter is that Governor Keating lied – workers have really just become free to lose their high-paying jobs."

Shurden added that since SQ 695 was approved by voters on Sept. 25, 2001, unemployment continued to grow until the summer of 2003.

"Recent employment figures show that almost 87,000 Oklahomans are unemployed, which is nearly 20,000 more unemployed than we had before right to work," Shurden said.

The Henryetta Democrat cited plant closings and losses of thousands of high-paying jobs since the approval of right to work as evidence that the law has done little to help the Oklahoma worker.

Shurden said the net loss of high-paying jobs, many of which have been replaced by minimum wage and other low-paying jobs, has led to a loss of state tax revenues and a decrease in buying power for consumers.

He also added that right to work's weakening of labor unions has helped accelerate the state's losses by reducing the quality of health and medical benefits, as well as the ability of unions to safeguard workers' health and environmental conditions.

"Right to work has reduced the power of the unions to defend workers, plain and simple. Telling someone that they don't have to pay dues but then requiring the union to defend them anyway is simply unfair," Shurden remarked.

"When the day comes that unions are unable to offer a high level of protection, who's going to stand up for working men and women when their employer wants to leave them out in the cold? Not the corporations, that's for sure."

Lawmakers will consider SJR 27 during the Second Session of the 49th Legislature, which begins on Feb. 2, 2004.

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Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5774