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Organized Labor in Oklahoma

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday March 4, 2011


The standoff between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and public employee unions in that state has focused attention on issues involving organized labor. Oklahoma is not a strong union state, especially since "Right to Work" went into effect in 2001, but there are issues raised in Wisconsin that have some application here.

There are several bills alive in the Oklahoma legislature seeking to alter the relationship between unions and management in Oklahoma. Mostly, these bills address binding arbitration and the right of municipal government employees to engage in collective bargaining with their employer. This includes repealing a 6-year-old law that requires municipalities with a population of more than 35,000 to engage in collective bargaining with their employees.

Teachers may belong to unions in Oklahoma, but unlike in Wisconsin, state workers in Oklahoma are not authorized to unionize. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association, which reportedly represents about one-third of state workers, is not a union, but an association, which has different requirements under state law than does a union.

This week on Oklahoma Forum, we brought together four guests to discuss the Wisconsin situation, organized labor in Oklahoma, and proposed changes in Oklahoma law relating to organized labor. Our guests are: Carolyn Stager, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Municipal League; Senator David Holt (R) Oklahoma City; Representative Richard Morrissette (D) Oklahoma City; and Jimmy Curry, President of the Oklahoma State AFL-CIO.

In addition to changes in collective bargaining procedures, we briefly addressed another key topic that will surely be debated at the Capitol this year – pensions and other benefits for public service employees. While we did not address "Right to Work," since the program was recorded a new report was released that examined the impact of RTW on job creation in Oklahoma ("Does Right-to-Work Create Jobs?: Answers from Oklahoma" prepared by the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute and released on March 3, 2011). So, if you are interested in labor-management relations and Oklahoma's labor laws, you might want to take a look.

Thanks for watching.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Carolyn Stager, Sen. David Holt, Rep. Richard Morrissette, and Jimmy Curry)

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