As reported by, labor leaders in New Jersey, still licking their wounds after losing a fight over pension and health benefits in the Democratic Legislature last month, are being told a new anti-union bill does not stand a chance. 

The leader of the state Assembly told The Associated Press that New Jersey won’t become a battleground over allowing public and private sector workers with union shops to opt out of joining or paying dues. “This legislation is dead on arrival,” Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said of the right-to-work bill introduced last week. “This type of move may play elsewhere, but, quite simply, this anti-worker bill will see the light of day.”

There are 22 right-to-work states, where labor unions can’t force workers to be members or pay dues. Most are in southern and western states, but they’re gaining interest in other places, especially states where Republicans control the Legislature and the governor’s office. In all, 42 right-to-work bills are pending in 24 states, according to the national Conference of State Legislatures.  

“It really weakens unions, that’s what it’s designed to do,” said Jeffrey Keefe, an associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations, who has been watching as momentum ebbs and flows for a technique many view as undercutting organized labor’s influence. “Union dues is another name for tax. Could we imagine the quality of our school system and fire departments if paying taxes was voluntary?”

New Jersey’s bill would affect public workers. The sponsor of the right-to-work measure, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, doesn’t view his legislation as piling on. Still, he quietly introduced the bill prohibiting union dues from being deducted from the paychecks of public employees amid the distraction of a scathing partisan battle over the state budget.

O’Scanlon said workers who believe they benefit by forcing employers to pay them more are mistaken. He said the opt-out legislation helps control building costs and, therefore, encourages economic growth. It also fits with Governor Chris Christie’s anti-union mantra.

Christie, who’s become a national GOP icon known for tough talk and fiscal restraint, has been unrestrained in his criticism of unions, particularly the state’s powerful public teachers union. The New Jersey Education Association, which recently spent $2 million in six weeks on anti-Christie ads, has been the recipient of many a Christie tirade, often for spending union dues teachers are required to pay to finance favored candidates or attack political foes.