Some see “right to work” fight coming to Ohio

CLEVELAND (PAI) – Referendum petitions continue to circulate in Ohio in an effort to put a so-called right-to-work initiative on the state ballot. Reports indicate, however, that the anti-union measure hasn’t gained much traction, despite some smug predictions that “it’s just a matter of time.”

A right-wing-funded group, calling itself the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, is behind the move, and has been trying since last year to gather a minimum of 231,147 valid names of registered voters spread over at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Should right to work make this year’s ballot, they’re hoping to scam voters by calling it the “Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment.”

The only other avenue is a state law, and most GOP lawmakers still feel the sting from the last time they tried such a maneuver, in 2011. They lost a follow-up referendum, 61%-39%. Nevertheless, many union officials continue to be wary.

They note that most Republican lawmakers could probably survive a voter backlash, thanks to recent redistricting that heavily favors incumbent Republicans, keeping Democratic (and heavily union) households in their districts at a minimum.

As for GOP Gov. John Kasich-still haunted by a 2010 declaration that “we need to break the back of organized labor” – all focus on his end is on gearing for a probable toss-up re-election campaign. With his approval ratings still well under 50%, he can’t afford to lose any votes, particularly from the 30% of union members who tend to vote Republican, unless they have good reason not to.

If Kasich is even considering the kind of reversal Michigan’s GOP Gov. Rick Snyder sprung in December, prevailing wisdom says it won’t happen until he’s snuggled into his second term, after 2014. So Ohio labor’s likely strategy between now and then is “If you know right-to-work-for-less is going to ‘hit the fan,’ pull the plug before it happens.” That means a very active campaign to deny Kasich a second term.

Bill Obbagy is Editor, The Cleveland Citizen, published since 1891. Photo: Ohio union and community members rally, October 2011, before canvass on SB5 Tim Wheeler/