Sussex County Council defers vote on right to work after controversial public hearing

Sussex County Council has unanimously decided to defer a decision on the proposed right to work ordinance following a very lengthy and controversial public hearing.

The ordinance, if passed, would allow prospective employees to opt-out of joining labor unions and being forced to pay the dues or fees that come with the representation.

County Councilman Rob Arlett proposed the ordinance in October, and said his decision to defer the vote was due in part by the fact that County Attorney Everett Moore has yet to officially submit a legal written opinion as he promised.

“It was disappointing to learn today that the County Attorney has yet to provide a legal written opinion although it has been stated that he would, and all other legal opinions reference his opinion though it doesn’t exist,” explained Arlett.

Delaware 105.9’s Rob Petree reached out to County Attorney Everett Moore who said it's not a requirement to submit a formal legal written opinion and, with Councilman Arlett pushing for a public hearing, he decided to wait to do so.

“No, it’s not required to do. When I gave my verbal opinion it’s because I was asked for that verbal opinion by the President of County Council,” Moore explained. “I do intend to give a written opinion, but Mr. Arlett has been saying he wanted the public hearing for the purpose of hearing everyone’s viewpoints.

"All of use expected that there would be attorneys in attendance that would give their opinions and I'd be listening to their opinions as well before I give my formal opinion to council,” said Moore.

In October, Moore painted the possibility of passing such an ordinance as essentially court-filled and costly. "We could see very, very expensive litigation, possibly on multiple fronts, including injunctive relief,” he explained to County Council President Mike Vincent.

At the start of the Tuesday's hearing, the council chamber was filled with well over a hundred people who were instructed to raise their hand in either support or opposition for the ordinance.

The estimated tally of the audience poll was 33 for, and 163 against, according to County Communications Director Chip Guy.

The majority of residents who showed up opposed the ordinance, and several were either currently in a union or had been previously represented by one. John Rodriguez, a resident of Seaford, was among them and said the ordinance would be the county’s “worst enemy.”

After providing comment, County Councilman Sam Wilson addressed Rodriguez and said “are you aware that unions are their own worst enemy?” Speaking of a program he saw on television, Councilman Wilson said union workers purchased foreign cars and asked Rodriguez if he owns a foreign made vehicle, which he said he didn’t.

Following that exchange, County Councilman George Cole said “see if the union can get you a gym membership, Happy New Year.” Jokingly referring to a comment Rodriguez made stating that he needs to go to the gym while referring to previous comments comparing right to work to the elimination of membership fees at gyms.

David Stevenson, an economic analyst for the Caesar Rodney Institute and a resident of Lewes, expressed strong support for the ordinance and cited exponential growth in the six states who’ve enacted right to work laws since 2012. He claimed “household income rose 5 percent each year in those states.”

Research shows the 28 states who've implemented right-to-work have seen exponential growth in job creation. According to Forbes, passing right-to-work would boost the economy in Sussex County and make the area more attractive for job creation.

On average, right-to-work states have greater economic growth, a lower unemployment rate and lower taxes than forced union states.

Between 1977 and 2007, income rose per-capita 23-percent faster in right-to-work states compared to those who did not have the law, Forbes reported.

The ordinance, introduced on Oct. 31, would make Sussex County the first community from as far as Maine to Virginia to institute such a provision, if passed.

Last month, Seaford's City Council passed their own ordinance for right-to-work, which prohibits employers within the municipality from mandating employees join a union or be required to pay dues, read more.

Earlier this year, nearly all State lawmakers in Sussex County voiced support for the ordinance while upstate lawmakers vehemently opposed it, read more.

County Council is expected to vote on the ordinance at next week’s meeting.

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