A GOP-led move to create so-called right-to-work zones in Delaware has been scuttled by the state Senate’s Democratic majority.
Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle sponsored the legislation, which he said would help shore up the state’s manufacturing base. The bill would have allowed the Delaware Economic Development Office to create industrial zones where the ability of workers to collectively bargain for wages and benefits is weakened. It was defeated on April 29.
“Other states are showing the way to increase manufacturing, with the adoption of right-to-work laws,” Lavelle said in a press release.
Doug Drummond disagrees. The Wilmington Local 313 business manager was quoted by WBOC-TV Channel 16 saying that that legislators were misleading the public, and that no company – manufacturing or otherwise – is bound by law to have a union.
“It’s the union’s job to go out and organize,” Drummond said.
The legality of such right-to-work zones is still up for debate. Earlier this year, several counties in Kentucky, which requires employees represented by unions to pay their fair share toward servicing their collective bargaining agreements, decided to take matters into their own hands by passing area right-to-work laws.
Nine unions – Including the IBEW – filed a suit in Kentucky arguing that the National Labor Relations Act stipulates that such laws can only be enacted at the state level, not in smaller counties or municipalities.
What’s not up for debate, labor leaders say, is that right-to-work laws erode workers’ efforts to collectively bargain by making it harder for unions to collect dues, driving down wages and benefits. The average worker in a right-to-work state makes $1,500 less a year than his or her counterpart in union-friendly states.
Employees in pro-worker states are also more likely to have job-based health benefits.
Right-to-work has been a hot topic with anti-worker state lawmakers this year.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed right-to-work into law on March 9, despite a vocal chorus of opposition from thousands of working families. The last states to pass the laws were Indiana and Michigan, both in 2012.
About 11 percent of Delaware’s workforce is represented by unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The nationwide median weekly earnings of nonunion workers in 2014 hovered around $760 – just 79 percent of earnings for union members, who took home about $970, the BLS reported.
Read more from Delaware’s WBOC-TV Channel 16.