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Oho Unions Fight Right to Work

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by   Samuel Morris               Godwin Morris Laurenzi Bloomfield

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 Oho Unions Fight Right to Work

Labor unions crowd hearing to oppose Ohio right-to-work bill

 

 

By Jim SiegelThe Columbus Dispatch  •  Wednesday December 2, 2015 11:15 AM

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Adam Cairns | Dispatch file photo

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, says he supports right-to-work legislation, but he has not indicated when or if the House plann" style="line-height: inherit; font-style: inherit;">REQUEST TO BUY THIS PHOTOADAM CAIRNS | DISPATCH FILE PHOTOOhio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, says he supports right-to-work legislation, but he has not indicated when or if the House planned to take action on the bill.

 

 

It was just a first hearing. There was no chance for a vote or even prolonged discussion.

But union backers on Tuesday once again made it clear to legislative Republicans that if they want to hold any kind of formal, public discussion of a right-to-work bill, opponents are going to show up in force.

Bringing back memories of the 2011 fight over Senate Bill 5 -- the bill that targeted public-employees unions and was overturned by voters -- more than 100 union supporters packed hearing rooms and a Statehouse hallway on Tuesday as a House committee heard a bill that would ban private employee unions from requiring that workers pay dues commonly known as "fair share" fees.

Supporters argue it's unfair to require such fees and it puts the state at a competitive disadvantage. Unions say such laws weaken their organizations and collective-bargaining ability, leading to lower wages, worse benefits and safety issues.

"It's important to show it every time that we can have people come out," said Becky Higgins, president of the Ohio Education Association, as she lingered in a noisy, shoulder-to-shoulder Statehouse hallway. "We have to continually be vigilant. We need to be wherever this is being talked about."

While passing a right-to-work bill could be dicey in the Senate, a solid House majority would likely support the bill. But it does not appear legislative GOP leaders are interested in stirring up a massive union battle at a time when job numbers are up, 2016 campaigns are looming and Gov. John Kasich is campaigning for president.

Kasich has said repeatedly that Ohio does not need a right-to-work law.

Before the hearing, Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, noted that he supports right-to-work but did not indicate when or if the House planned to take action. He specifically pointed out that the bill has "only about nine or 10" co-sponsors (it's 10).

"We have to start looking at whether it's an economic tool that we need to look at as a state, but at the same time we have to be cautious," he said. "We know what happened with Senate Bill 5. We'll let the process work."

Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy, chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee and a longtime supporter of right-to-work, said he plans to bring in experts to testify. He agreed that there is a lingering reluctance to act because of what happened with Senate Bill5.

"If we do anything with this bill, it's going to take a long time," Young said.

But union supporters know that in other states, right-to-work can quickly go from a non-agenda issue to the governor's desk.

"I don't know what the governor is going to do until we get this on his desk," Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, sponsor of the bill, told the committee. "Other governors who have claimed it's not on their agenda have ended up signing it, particularly in Indiana and Michigan."

That explains the show of union opposition. A loud ovation erupted in the hearing room when Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, asked Brinkman, "Is this bill worth dividing a state that has already gone to the ballot?"

"We've already been here with Senate Bill 5, and the citizens of the state of Ohio overwhelmingly rejected this," said Terry Hollon, a corrections officer at the Pickaway Correctional Institution for 32 years. "I don't understand why we have to go through this again."

Brinkman sparred with Democrats on the committee. He argued that the 25 states with right-to-work are generally seeing better economic and population growth, and large manufacturers are bypassing the state.

"Ohio has tremendous advantages, but right now we're not even getting a second look," he said, repeatedly adding that the bill would push unions to work harder on behalf of their members, to ensure they want to remain members.

But Democrats countered that right-to-work states have significantly lower wages, worse safety records and lower spending on education.

"It will make citizens and their children in Ohio poorer," said Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo. " This is not a race to the bottom."

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50 N. Front St., Memphis TN  38103

901 528 1702    901 949 1144

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