Delaware Teamsters joined hundreds of their union brothers and sisters in January in pushing back against a county effort to institute a right-to-work (RTW) provision that would curtail workers’ collective bargaining rights and tamp down on wages for thousands in Sussex County.
A vote on the RTW measure was postponed after it became clear the vast majority of those in attendance were against it. The overflow crowd spread outside of the council chambers, where Teamsters and other union members rallied in the frigid cold against the anti-worker ordinance.
When the Sussex County Council actually held the vote on the measure, it failed.
“We see that they at least heard our voices that this is a more complicated issue than they thought,” said Paul Thornburg, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 326 in New Castle, Del. “This is people’s livelihoods. They saw that.”
Local 355 members and other Teamsters joined with Local 326 to voice their disgust with the RTW effort, which the Sussex County Council’s own attorney called illegal. Because Delaware is a free-bargaining state, a locality cannot act on its own to implement such a policy. The county attorney warned that passage of such an anti-worker ordinance would lead to legal action against the jurisdiction and cost taxpayers at least $250,000.
Thornburg said in recent years there have been efforts pushed by state GOP lawmakers to approve RTW, but Democrats have succeeded in blocking them. So when County Councilman Ron Arlett announced in October that he was introducing such an ordinance in the southernmost and most conservative county in Delaware, it was unexpected.
“I was shocked. It was a mad scramble,” Thornburg said. “We were really shocked because we talked on the state level and it’s been thrown out. When it came to local law, we didn’t think it was legal.”
These attempts need to be called out for what they are—a corporate-fueled attack on everyday people who are just trying to earn a living to support their families. It’s part of a national effort being pushed by the same big companies and business executives who for years have boosted their profits by sending American jobs overseas. These special interests are trying to lower wages and cut benefits for workers so they can increase their profits even more.
RTW in all its forms is still wrong for workers.