OK Labor Unions: Politically Active, Politically Challenged

  • Joe Wertz

Oklahoma labor unions are smaller but have remained active in the 12 years since voters signed off on right to work legislation, reports The Journal Record‘s M. Scott Carter.

But state and national political trends could foretell trouble.

“The problem is the tea party and the extremists. They are trying to pick us off one by one,” Moore Association of Classroom Teachers President Jill Dudley tells the paper.

State lawmakers proposed a measure to eliminate the payroll deduction for teachers unions and public employee associations. An amendment allowed the deduction — on the union’s dime — which would have cost Dudley’s union more than $9,000 had it passed, she tells the paper.

“We believe it’s political retribution; they are trying to shut down our right to free speech.”

But a lot of manufacturing has moved overseas, and Oklahoma unions have also had trouble organizing workers in Indian casinos, Carter reports. Oklahoma’s strong economy and low unemployment rate also frustrate union recruitment, employer attorney Byrona J. Maule tells the paper.

But there’s some promising news for Oklahoma unions. The number of organizational drives has been outpacing the number of decertification elections, Tulsa labor attorney Steve Hickman tells the Journal.

And Jimmy Curry, president of Oklahoma AFL-CIO, says the union is faring well in some sectors — particularly construction and the trades.

Curry also cites headlines in Muskogee, where city councilors voted last year to end collective bargaining with its non-uniform employees. But workers there helped elect new, supportive city council members, and the city now has an ordinance that gives those workers the right to reorganize, according to the Muskogee Phoenix.