Sussex Council Defeats Proposed Right to Work Ordinance - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex Council Defeats Proposed Right to Work Ordinance

Posted: Jan 09, 2018 11:54 AM Updated:
(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

GEORGETOWN, Del.- A controversial "right to work" ordinance has been defeated in Susssex County.

A week after a public hearing on the measure, the Sussex County Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 to reject the measure that would have outlawed mandatory union membership or payment of dues as a condition of employment. 

The vote came after a presentation from County Attorney J. Everett Moore, who stated based on past court cases and Delaware code, he did not believe the ordinance was legally defensible.

"It is my opinion that a Delaware court is unlikely to uphold this ordinance in its current form," he told the council members ahead of their vote.

Councilman Rob Arlett, who introduced the ordinance, was the sole supporting vote Tuesday, after originally trying to defer the vote. He said he believed the ordinance would help attract more jobs to the county.

"To me, if it has the ability to attract jobs to this county, then we should consider it," he explained. "And let the courts make their decision as they see fit."

After the vote, Arlett told WBOC he respected his colleagues' opinions and the process, but he felt the 4-1 vote was one against working families.

"The Sussex County Council voted today out of fear and not based on principle," he said.

For weeks, local unions voiced strong opposition to the proposal, saying it would hurt workers' rights.  

"There are numerous families who encounter intimidation or bullying in the workplace, and are really timid to voice their concerns," said John Rodriguez, the Union Representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 27. "With the help of union organizations and locals, they're able to have their concerns addressed."

Councilman George Cole told the crowd he supported the proposal in theory but voted against it based on the county attorney's opinion that the ordinance was legally indefensible in court. Councilman I.G. Burton said he believed there were other economic issues that mattered more to potential companies than right-to-work.

"I firmly believe other factors such as infrastructure, shovel ready sites, transportation systems, strong labor force, competitive available utilities, low taxes, internet and good schools all outrank right to work for companies looking to locate to Sussex County," he said.

Burton did say he was ready to ask the state elected officials to give the county the legal authority to enact a right to work ordinance.  

Many of the union leaders said they would now focus their efforts on fighting municipal right-to-work ordinances in Delaware.


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