GOP backs down on “right to work” in two states

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fearing public reaction which could hurt their party at the polls next year – symbolized by a mass May Day protest on the state Capitol lawn in Columbus, Ohio – Republican state legislative leaders in Ohio and Missouri effectively stopped drives for so-called “right to work” laws in those legislatures.

But the fight isn’t over yet, at least in Ohio. The Buckeye State’s statewide tea party affiliate says it will gather signatures, facing a July deadline, to put “right to work” on the ballot this November.

Right to work (for less) is a longtime cause of business and its legislative handmaidens. Since the 2010 GOP mid-term election sweep, the radical right – led by the secretive, extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and so-called tea party groups – have joined that cause.

Those interests aim to weaken and destroy workers and their unions by laws to let millions of workers be “free riders,” taking advantage of union services, such as bargaining and workers’ rights protections, without having to pay for them via dues. The point is to destroy unions by removing money.

Union leaders, members and activists call such legislation “right to work for less,” referring to lower wages, lessened benefits and weak job security in “right to work” states.

“What we’re seeing is more Senate Bill 5-type legislation, which is simply an attack on worker’s rights and collective bargaining,” Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga told reporters after the rally, describing the “right to work” schemes there.

ALEC and GOP Gov. John Kasich pushed SB5 two years ago. That law stripped all Ohio state and local workers of all collective bargaining rights. Labor and its allies petitioned SB5 to a referendum. Voters bounced SB5 in Nov. 2011, 61 percent to 39 percent.

That history led Ohio State Senate President Keith Faber, R, to turn thumbs down on right to work now. “”We have an ambitious agenda focused on job creation and economic recovery, and “right to work” legislation is not on that list,” he said. In a statement, Kasich took no position on “right to work,” but did not put it on his agenda, either.

“Right to work states have less health care security and less retirement security,” said Burga. “All in all it’s been devastating to the middle class and working families of those states.”

“America’s right-to-work states are the poorest, most unhealthy and undereducated states in the union. That is a fact,” Joe Rugola, director of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees.

In Missouri, State Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R, said rank-and-file members of his caucus want to pass “right to work” and the GOP-run Missouri House plans to do so. But Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, would veto it and Dempsey says the GOP lacks the needed votes to override his move. So Dempsey’s reaction was: “Why bother?”

“They (the state senators) also recognize that we have a Democratic governor who has said he’ll veto the legislation and that we simply lack the votes to move it forward over his objections,” Dempsey said.

Photo: With the memory of a statewide rebellion of voters they caused when they went after collective bargaining rights two years ago still fresh in their minds, the Ohio GOP appears to be backing down on its attempt to turn the state into a right to work (for less) state. DailyKos


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.