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Will “Right-to-Work” Build Momentum in Ohio?

PHOTO: A movement is underway to turn Ohio into a so-called “Right-to-Work” state.
PHOTO: A movement is underway to turn Ohio into a so-called “Right-to-Work” state.
March 18, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Michigan recently became the 24th state to enact a so-called "Right-to-Work" law; will Ohio be next?

Activists are working to gather signatures to put the Workplace Freedom Amendment on the ballot. The measure would make it illegal to force a worker to join a union. That duplicates current law, but where it differs is that employees would no longer be required to pay a portion of dues for collective bargaining.

Amendment supporters have said it is a matter of freedom of choice. Opponents, such as Dennis Willard of "We are Ohio," contend the measure is misleading and would hurt workers by weakening the ability of unions to bargain for better wages and job protections.

"The so-called Right-to-Work is really unfair," Willard said. "It is unsafe, and it's going to really destroy our working- and middle-class families and devastate our communities."

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom supports the measure. The group's spokesperson, Chris Littleton, said right-to-work will create jobs and is one of the key components needed to build prosperity in Ohio.

"This is going to fix the labor environment," he said, "and that allows for a much higher likelihood of investment into Ohio so we move off the list of one of the worst states to do business onto the list of one of the best states to do business."

By early July, 380,000 signatures are needed if the measure is to be on the November ballot. Littleton said if they don't make the deadline, they will try again in 2014.

Willard said, if passed, the measure would drive down the average wage and compromise workers' safety, because in right-to-work states employees cannot speak up on behalf of themselves.

"When they stand up and say, 'Hey, I think this is an unsafe working condition,' in Ohio they're protected," he said, 'but in these states where they've taken away their workers' rights, they're just told, 'Hit the high road - we'll bring somebody else in here.'"

Littleton said there is broad support for right-to-work; Willard said he is confident voters will reject it - just as they did Senate Bill 5.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH