Foes of Ohio union law target new labor limits
JULIE CARR SMYTH
COLUMBUS — The labor-backed organization behind a 2011 campaign against Ohio’s sweeping collective bargaining law said Monday it’s ready to unleash its army of volunteers, email contacts and social media followers against an emerging right-to-work initiative in the state.
We Are Ohio also plans to join the fall campaign against an elections law overhaul that shrinks the early voting window and makes other changes, its representatives said during a news conference.
Jim Adkins, a union plumber at a state prison, said the group will emphasize that “right-to-work is wrong for Ohio.”
“We believe it’s wrong because it destroys jobs in our local communities,” said Adkins, who works at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. “It means lower wages and fewer benefits for everybody in Ohio.”
Ohioans for Workplace Freedom emerged days after the collective bargaining bill was rejected. The group is gathering signatures for a likely 2013 ballot issue that would keep workers from having to join a union or pay dues, even though they are covered by a union contract.
Adkins is a member of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, whose chapters and political action committee donated more than $1.2 million to We Are Ohio’s effort last year to reject the GOP-passed collective bargaining bill.
We Are Ohio still has $730,000 in the bank, according to its latest campaign finance report.
Spokesman Dennis Willard said the group also has 17,000 volunteers, 450,000 email addresses and 100,000 followers on Facebook. Supporters turned back a law limiting the bargaining rights of 350,000 police, firefighters, teachers and other public workers.
Mike Patrick, who heads the IT firm Patrick Solutions in Grandview, was the first to sign We Are Ohio’s petition last year. He said Monday he opposes the right-to-work amendment because he believes it will undermine Ohio’s middle-class standard of living — and that will drive businesses away.
The Workplace Freedom group’s Chris Littleton said to understand the economic impacts of compulsory union membership you have to look beyond average wages. He said cost-of-living also must be taken into consideration when making state-to-state comparisons.
“The only reason we’re doing this … is because it’s the right policy for the state of Ohio,” he said. “Everybody resonates with the idea that workers should get to choose whether they join a union. They should have that freedom.”
Adkins said not having to pay dues for the benefits one gets from union membership is like not paying installments on your bank loan.
It is still unclear whether Ohioans will get to weigh in on the elections overhaul bill. It has been on hold since September, pending a chance voters have this fall to accept or reject it.
The Republican-led Senate has introduced a bill repealing elements of the law. That move has been met with resistance from both GOP House Speaker Bill Batchelder and Fair Elections Ohio, the coalition fighting the bill. Both question the constitutionality of repealing the law now that the referendum has qualified for the ballot.