GOP leader: Ohio right-to-work bills lack support

Ohio Senate President says no support for 'right-to-work' bills among fellow Republicans

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Two bills intended to strip Ohio unions of the ability to compel membership or to automatically collect fees from members to cover bargaining costs appeared dead on arrival at the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday after a key legislative leader announced a lack of support for the measures among majority Republicans.

Senate President Keith Faber issued an after-hours statement indicating he didn't believe the right-to-work proposals of state Reps. Kristina Roegner and Ron Maag had either the support or the interest within his caucus to move forward.

"We have an ambitious agenda focused on job creation and economic recovery, and Right to Work legislation is not on that list," he said.

The measures would prohibit any requirements that employees join or pay dues to any employee organization. They also establish as state policy "that each employee must be fully free to decide whether to associate, organize, designate a representative, or join or assist an employee organization."

"By introducing these two bills, we're putting forward a proposal that we believe will make Ohio a freer and more prosperous place to work," Roegner said.

Roegner's bill would apply to private-sector unions, while Maag's would apply to public-sector unions — the same entities targeted in a sweeping collective bargaining overhaul rejected by more than 60 percent of Ohio voters in 2011.

Faber said the bill would be any easy target for criticism from Democrats.

"The only purpose this discussion serves right now is to generate a bunch of breathless fundraising appeals from the Ohio Democratic Party," he said.

Indeed, House Democrats joined labor leaders in quickly challenging the proposals, saying they are built on myths about existing labor law and intended to undercut working people in favor of corporations.

Democratic state Rep. Tracy Heard said Ohio workers already have the ability to opt out of union membership and those who do are not required to pay dues.

Unions may collect what's called a "fair share fee" to cover costs directly associated with collective bargaining, which can include the settlement of grievances, pursuit of workplace safety compliance, and various legal actions intended to benefit all workers included in the bargaining unit.

"America's right-to-work states are the poorest, most unhealthy and undereducated states in the union. That is a fact," said Joe Rugola, director of the 35,000-member Ohio Association of Public School Employees.

He said "right-wing extremist legislators" and corporate interests motivated by "a godless greed" were aligned to unravel the benefits and security unions bring.

"Right-to-work attacks the heart and foundation of that notion and, because of that, it's our intention with every fiber of our being to make war on those who want to make war on the American middle-class," he said.

Unions may collect what's called a "fair share fee" to cover costs directly associated with collective bargaining, which can include the settlement of grievances, pursuit of workplace safety compliance, and various legal actions intended to benefit all workers included in the bargaining unit.

"America's right-to-work states are the poorest, most unhealthy and undereducated states in the union. That is a fact," said Joe Rugola, director of the 35,000-member Ohio Association of Public School Employees.

He said "right-wing extremist legislators" and corporate interests motivated by "a godless greed" were aligned to unravel the benefits and security unions bring.

"Right-to-work attacks the heart and foundation of that notion and, because of that, it's our intention with every fiber of our being to make war on those who want to make war on the American middle-class," he said.

Faber's statement followed a cautious lack of support for the bills by both Gov. John Kasich and Republican House Speaker William Batchelder.

Maag said he doesn't view the bills as either anti-worker or anti-union.

"We believe that unions have the right, and sometimes even the responsibility to organize. The purpose of unions is to protect equality," he said. "However, workplace freedom is also about fairness. Strong-arming workers into joining a union is not fair. Getting or keeping a job based on union affiliation is not fair. Workers who contribute to candidates they do not support certainly is not fair."

Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, said the attacks were erroneous — union workers may receive back dues spent for political purposes they object to — and the bills' sponsors should not purport to be defending unionized workers' rights.

"Let's be clear, this isn't being brought forward by union workers," he said.

Twenty-four states, including neighboring Indiana and Michigan, have such right-to-work provisions in place.

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