Ohio Right-To-Work Raises Its Ugly Head Again

Union members overflowed the House Finance Committee hearing room for the first reading of HB 53, a controversial “Right-to-Work” bill aimed at Ohio’s public employee unions.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Becker, a Clermont County Republican, had little to offer when questioned about the need for the bill and what effect it would have on unions.

The bill “would not change anything” he said. In fact, it would change everything public employees have gained since the 1982 passage of Ohio’s public employee collective bargaining law. 

When challenged by committee members to explain how Ohio would be different than other right-to-work states where pay has plunged and workplace injuries have skyrocketed, he said he didn’t know.

Right-to-work laws commonly allow members to stop paying union dues while still enjoying union representation, creating a so-called “free riders” problem. Becker’s bill supposedly solves this by wiping out exclusive representation.

Under HB53, unions would be prohibited from representing non-members. Experience has shown that giving up exclusive representation is a trap. While it may address “free riders”, it’s a divide-and-conquer tactic that ultimately weakens a union’s power to win better pay, stronger pensions, and job security.

It’s not clear if Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature is on board with restricting labor rights during its lame-duck session. Many members recall SB5, a similar law voters soundly rejected by a 62 percent margin in 2011.

“All of labor is watching this closely and we are ready to act if HB53 picks up any steam,” said AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Political and Legislative Director Robert Davis, who advised all AFSCME members to remain engaged and informed.

If enacted, Ohio would become the 29th state with union busting laws on the books, including neighboring Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana.


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