Ohioans for Workplace Freedom has been granted the approval of the Ohio Ballot Board to begin circulating petitions to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to make Ohio a “So Called Right to Work” state. The group will need to collect 385,253 signatures to place its measure on the ballot.

So just who is behind the group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom and what would the ballot initiative really accomplish?

To put it bluntly, the proposal is a direct attack on labor unions in Ohio and their ability to fairly represent workers. Current federal and Ohio laws allow for employers and unions to agree that, as a condition of employment, a worker must pay at least some dues to a union in order to defray the cost of collective bargaining. These dues go directly towards the costs that unions incur negotiating a fair contract for the workers they represent.

Under current federal and Ohio law, NO employee is required to join a union as a condition of employment; employees are only required to pay a certain portion of dues that go towards collective bargaining. “So Called Right to Work” forces commonly argue that workers should be able to choose whether to belong to a union or not; however, under federal and Ohio laws, employees already have that very choice.

Not requiring workers to pay the reasonable cost of collective bargaining through dues monies creates a “free-rider problem” for unions. Unions will be required under contract to represent all employees; however, some of those same employees would be not required to pay for this representation. In other words, employees would get all the benefits of union representation (contract negotiations, representation during disciplinary proceedings, etc.) without having to assist the union with any of the costs.

This ballot initiative would, therefore, financially cripple unions, dealing them a devastating blow to any union’s ability to fairly represent workers.

Supporters of these laws couch their argument in terms of “worker freedom” in order to distract people from their real goal: striking a financial blow against unions and hampering their ability to fairly represent individuals in the workplace.

“So Called Right to Work” laws are bad for workers and unions. According to the Department of Labor, the average worker in a “So Called Right to Work” state makes about $5,333 per year less than workers in other states. Weekly wages are $72 greater in free-bargaining states compared to “So Called Right to Work” states. When considering these facts, it is no accident that many call these types of proposals “Right to Work For Less.”

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom is made up of extreme, right-wing tea-party groups and big business.

The author of the proposed constitutional amendment is Maurice Thompson, who is the Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. Mr. Thompson was also the author of Issue 3 (constitutional amendment opposing the Affordable Healthcare Act) which was on the ballot in 2011.

Under Mr. Thompson’s direction, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has been active on a number of right-wing issues. Originally formed as a wing of the conservative libertarian think tank The Buckeye Institute, 1851 Center for Constitutional Law supported Ohio Senate Bill 5, a law that attacked public employee’s collective bargaining rights. It also worked with General Assembly Republicans to include an amendment that restricted local governments’ ability to allow unions to have a check off for employees who want to make dues contributions to a union’s political activities.

Mr. Thompson and the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law pushed Ohio lawmakers to eliminate Ohio’s estate tax in the last state budget. The General Assembly eliminated the estate tax and thus forfeited millions in revenue at a time in which the state had an $8 billion deficit. Mr. Thompson advocated for a tax cut for millionaires while millions were cut from state construction projects and public safety as thousands of state and local government employees lost their livelihoods.

At a press conference in November 2011 announcing the petition initiative, Mr. Thompson blatantly lied about the unemployment rates among “So Called Right to Work” states compared to Ohio. Mr. Thompson said that Ohio’s unemployment rate is significantly higher than “So Called Right to Work” states and “it’s always been that way.” According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and PolitiFact, which investigated his claim, there was absolutely no merit to his contention and PolitiFact labeled it completely “false.”

Those listed in the petition as the committee that represents Ohioans for Workplace Freedom include Chris Littleton and Bryan Williams.

Chris Littleton is the President of the Cincinnati Tea Party and is heavily involved in the Ohio Liberty Council, which is a statewide coordinating group for tea-party organizations. He helped lead the effort to oppose federal healthcare reform with a successful ballot initiative.

Bryan Williams is the Director of Government Affairs for the Central Ohio Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). ABC supports repealing the federal prevailing wage law and Ohio’s decades-old prevailing wage law. These laws ensure that skilled construction workers are paid at least the prevailing wage in the locality of their work. ABC also advocates for ending the use of Project Labor Agreements. ABC stands in direct opposition to the fundamental tenants of organized labor.

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom is currently in the process of organizing a PAID signature collection campaign. Its state coordinator, Jim Lewis, has indicated that the group is aiming to have the measure on the 2012 general election ballot, if possible. The ABC is bankrolling this paid signature gathering effort.

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom is directly attacking organized labor in Ohio. Its proposed “Right to Work for Less” constitutional amendment is bad for workers, unions and the State of Ohio; its supporters are made up typical right-wing groups and anti-worker forces.

ACT Ohio stands in direct opposition to the constitutional amendment proposed by Ohioans for Workplace Freedom and will do all in its power to ensure that Ohio remains a state that treats workers, employers and unions fairly.

 

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