Sussex urged not to pass right-to-work law

December 7, 2017

Sussex County Council has scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 2, 2018, at 10:45 a.m., for an ordinance which would prohibit "mandatory union membership or payment of certain union fees."

I recommend that Sussex County Council not approve this ordinance for several reasons.

First, it is wrong. This ordinance would enable employees to benefit from union negotiations but not pay the costs for such a benefit. I believe that unions do serve a major benefit to workers, more specifically to those who work in unsatisfactory conditions, perhaps with low pay and poor working conditions. Unions provide empowerment to those who need help in situations especially where there are few realistic options.

Second, this ordinance is most likely illegal. Opinions by the county attorney and the Delaware Attorney General's Office indicate that the county does not have authority to enact such restrictions.

Approval of this ordinance would mean certain lawsuits, which would mean county taxpayers would be funding legal defense for this proposal. Although another organization has volunteered to pay legal costs, the county would still require its own attorneys at county expense to review, edit and ensure that the defense is consistent with county objectives.

Third, it has been suggested by some that this ordinance is important for economic development efforts to bring more business to Sussex, which of course we all desire. But, in my experience working for the county government for over 33 years, I am only aware of one company years ago, which indicated it had concerns regarding this issue. It turned out that this company later indicated that the real issue was the opportunity to pay low wages in a southern state.

For these reasons, I recommend that Sussex County Council not approve this ordinance.

David B. Baker


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