Hundreds of union members crammed into an Ohio House committee room and two overflow rooms as bills that would make Ohio a Right to Work state were debated yesterday.
But as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, there’s a good chance that fight won’t go much further right now.
Republican State Representative Kristina Roegner said Ohioans shouldn’t have to join a union to work a union job. She said her right to work bills would give workers freedom. And she said there’s evidence that Ohio would be better off economically for it.
Roegner – No matter which metric you select, population growth, job creation, wage growth….right to work states outpace their forced unionism counterparts time and time again.
That is something right to work opponents dispute, by the way. They cite studies showing lower wages for workers and more depressed economies in right to work states. One of the supporters of Roegner’s bills….and a sponsor of Right to Work legislation of his own, said it’s a matter of worker fairness. Republican Represenative Ron Maag said Ohio’s current policy is discriminatory.
Maag – Sometime in probably high school studying the early immigration periods, I remember the signs in the windows that said “Irish need not apply” or it could have been Germans or it could have been Italians. Well what we are saying here is non union members need not apply.
As Maag and Roegner talked about the need for Ohio to become a right to work state, at least 200 people, mostly union members listened on in three different packed rooms in the Ohio Statehouse. And in the main committee room, they cheered and were admonished by Republican Committee Chairman Kirk Shuring when Democratic State Representative Tom Letson posed this question for the Republican sponsors.
Letson – One of the real problems I have with your proposal is that maybe you have missed the fact that currently Ohio law allows for those people who do not want to belong to unions to not belong to unions.
(Applause – Schuring bangs gavel)
Shuring – We will have decorum in this room. I will call the sergeant of arms and the highway patrol to escort you out of here next time you react like that. We are not going to have reactions that will encourage others or intimidate others so I’m warning you right now – no more.
Schuring and other lawmakers no doubt remember two years ago when the Statehouse halls became ground zero for a protest on another labor bill that became law….a law that Ohioans repealed at the ballot box by an overwhelming majority months later. Jerry Brown, a corrections officer at the Dayton Correction Institution remembers that legislation….and he says this latest legislation is more of the same.
Brown – Don ‘t be misled what this is all about. This is about the unions. They want to eliminate unions in Ohio. That’s what it’s all about.
The head of the committee, Kirk Schuring, says the first hearings on these bills will be the last…..at least for now.
Schuring – There are probably about 8 or 10 things, in my opinion, that rank above this particular issue.
That might be the case. Still, Brown says he’s watching this type of legislation closely.
We don’t want to be lulled to sleep. We want to be very proactive on this.
Leaders of the Ohio Senate say they are not interested in taking up this issue now. Governor Kasich has also indicated Right to Work is not a top priority for him at this time.