After hearings on June 4, packed by angry, vocal opponents, the Manufacturing & Workforce Development Committee of the Ohio legislature, unanimously voted to table three so-called 'right-to-work' bills. Those bills had been introduced by right wing GOP legislators Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, and Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, a month earlier. Backed by the tea party, the bills were touted as the "Workplace Freedom Act," but are actually designed to break up union workplaces, after workers had voted to be represented by unions. Hundreds of workers rallied on statehouse grounds, protesting the proposed legislation, while the hearings were held.
"Ohioans have spoken, and did so overwhelmingly, on these ongoing attacks on working families and the middle class," stated Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga. "When corporate politicians gave us Senate Bill 5, to wipe out public worker's bargaining in the state, the people overwhelmingly said NO! We wish these guys would get the message.
We need jobs, health care, a decent, safe workplace & a good economy, not more of these divisive attacks on working families and the middle class!"
When the bills were introduced on May 1st, they were met with a series of angry demonstrations. Hundreds of unionists packed the legislature, lobbying legislators to oppose the bills. In the month since their introduction, the AFL-CIO has set up phone banks, blanketing the state with calls. Community meetings and demonstrations have been organized, opposing the proposed anti-labor bills. Bumper stickers, yard signs and billboards against the proposed legislation are now seen in many areas of the state. Resolutions opposing the three bills were passed and sent to the legislature by the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Council and Brunswick City Council, as well.
In a public statement, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, stated, "Right-to-work legislation is not on the agenda of the Republican caucus."
It is believed that the Republican majority in the legislature would actually welcome the anti-labor legislation if it could be put on the ballot this fall and if they could control the language of the ballot initiative. Tea party groups are active in the state collecting signatures for such an initiative, but need over 300,000 good signatures to be turned in by July 2.
"We believe that will be a tough mountain for them to climb," Matt Smith, Ohio AFL-CIO Outreach Coordinator. "While we know the public opposes these attacks on working families and the middle class, we need to make sure that people are informed on what they actually are. Workers in right-to-work states make over $6,000 less a year, are far less likely to have pensions or health care on their jobs and much more likely to be injured or killed on the job."
The Democratic caucus in both Houses has thus far been united in their opposition to the bills.
"This is billionaire's legislation," said Kevin Boyle, D-Columbus. "When was the last time billionaires got together and spent millions of dollars to give workers more rights and freedoms? The answer is never!"
Photo: Rick Nagin