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Terra Goodnight · May 1, 2013

Republicans Unleash New Attack on Workers Rights in Ohio

Public and private-sector unions are targeted by new Ohio legislation.
State Representatives Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) today announced their intention to introduce legislation that would make Ohio a so-called “Right to Work” state. Three bills will be introduced. Two would make it illegal to require an employee to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment – one each for the public and private sectors. The third would put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide. Unions would maintain collective bargaining rights, but membership would be expected to decline sharply as non-union workers would be allowed to benefit from union negotiations without paying dues. As a result, unions would lose strength to negotiate working conditions, wages and benefits. At an afternoon press conference, Maag and Roegner said the bills had 16 cosponsors. Roegner suggested offering three separate bills would allow a conversation in which Ohioans would “choose” the best path forward. If all three measures were adopted, however, it would mean labor organizations would have to mount three separate campaigns for their defeat: attempting to defeat the two new laws through a referendum while simultaneously working to defeat a constitutional amendment. Similar legislation was enacted during a lame-duck session of the Michigan legislature last year. Ohio would join 24 other states that have laws prohibiting workers to opt-out of paying for union-negotiated benefits. Ohioans should be wary of future attempts to bring so-called Right to Work (SCRTW) policies to Ohio. Studies show that states that adopt these policies find they are bad for workers — all workers, not just those in unions — and a state’s economic climate. Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute looked at a state’s SCRTW status and found that, compared to non-SCRTW states, wages were lower and employers were less likely to offer paid benefits like healthcare and pensions. EPI also found that even non-union workers do much better in states without SCRTW laws as there is a natural competitive between employers to compete for the best employees. A 50-state review by political economist Gordon Lafer found that there was no correlation between states with SCRTW laws and unemployment rates, per capita income or overall job growth. In fact, when it was published in September 2011, seven of the 10 highest-unemployment states had SCRTW laws. These findings confirm that so-called “right to work” laws would be more appropriately named “right to work for less,” as wages and benefits are lower and economic growth is not improved in states with these laws on the books.

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