Recently an ultra-conservative group, Ohioans for Workplace Freedom, received approval from the Ohio Ballot Commission to begin circulating petitions to amend Ohio’s Constitution to make Ohio a “Right to Work” state. Two of the primary drivers of the initiative, Bryan Williams and Chris Littleton, were instrumental in the passage of Senate Bill 5 last Spring. Behind a referendum effort led by a coalition of Ohio’s minority, labor and faith-based communities, Senate Bill 5, known as Issue 2 on the November 2011 ballot, was trounced by a final margin of 61% to 39%.
A “Right to Work” initiative in Ohio would bar unions and employers from agreeing to a union security clause in their collective bargaining agreements under the guise that workers should be able to choose whether to belong to a union. Every worker has that choice today. Since passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, over President Harry S. Truman’s veto, it has been illegal for any employer to force an employee to join a union. The compulsory unionism argument has no merit. It’s a fallacy.
However, proponents also object to any deduction or fee meant to cover the administrative costs of bargaining. In Right to Work states, employees no longer have to assist in offsetting the costs of bargaining. By cutting off the financial resources of the collective bargaining representative of the workers, (the union), a Right to Work change in Ohio would expedite the erosion of the concerted activity that gives workers a seat at the table with employers. The loss of this collective strength means lower wages, less competitive benefits, and inadequate training and safety standards for workers.
Right to Work proponents believe those who choose not to be union members should be entitled to the same wage raises, health insurance, retirement benefits, paid vacation, sick-leave and job security as those who are, for free. As the fabric of the collective whole unravels, bargaining strength is diminished to the point of irrelevance. This is their goal.
Proponents also assert that Ohio’s business climate is uncompetitive and that our State’s economy is suffering because of burdensome labor requirements. Billions of dollars in planned investments by companies like Chrysler, Ford, BP-Husky and others suggest otherwise. Further, it is worthy of note that, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, Alabama, Idaho, Arizona, Tennessee, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi and Nevada, all Right to Work states, have higher unemployment averages than Ohio.
Right to Work activists will be promoting the so-called virtues of workplace freedom in the coming months as they gather signatures for the constitutional change. The result of their successful efforts would be the collapse of the union movement in the State of Ohio. In 1961, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right to work.’ It provides no rights and no work. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining … We demand this fraud be stopped.” I agree.
Matthew A. Szollosi
Assistant Minority Leader
Ohio House of Representatives