As Republican legislators update goals in light of their newly won House majority, right-to-work is waking from a long slumber.
Right-to-work laws prohibit union membership as a condition of employment. Republicans and the business community have long believed right-to-work would be good for economic development — a signal that the state is business friendly. Unions, Democrats and advocates for working people have always said that weakened unions would mean lower wages and deteriorating working conditions.
Right-to-work has come up repeatedly, but hasn’t been a big issue for decades. In 1978, it was so hot that Bruce King almost lost his election to Joe Skeen. As governor, King vetoed right-to-work in 1979. When that veto was challenged, the state Supreme Court upheld its legality.
For a sneak preview of the debate to come, look at the legislative session of 1981, when a gaggle of right-to-work supporters took office. One was Sen. Mickey Barnett, R-Portales, who introduced a right-to-work bill.
House Minority Leader Hoyt Pattison, R-Clovis, argued: “The fact is, the people of our state and our nation don’t like to be told that they have to do something.” They don’t like to be told they have to pay dues to hold a job, especially when dues are used to support political candidates.