House Republicans have given themselves three options to make Ohio the 25th right–to-work state, including placing a proposed constitutional amendment before voters this fall. One Ohio labor leader called the bills "extreme" and seemed to draw a comparison with Nazi Germany when he was asked how the legislation could be extreme if half the states already had such laws and he said "all of Germany went extreme in 1933 ... that doesn't make it wise."
House Republicans have given themselves three options to make Ohio the 25th right–to-work state, including placing a proposed constitutional amendment before voters this fall.
One Ohio labor leader called the bills "extreme" and seemed to draw a comparison with Nazi Germany when he was asked how the legislation could be extreme if half the states already had such laws and he said "all of Germany went extreme in 1933 ... that doesn't make it wise."
In a news conference this afternoon at the Statehouse, GOP representatives Kristina Roegner of Hudson and Ron Maag of Lebanon said they filed three pieces of legislation: one to bar mandatory unionism in the public sector; one to do so in the private sector; and one that would allow voters to decide whether Ohio should be a right-to-work state.
Later today, Republican Senate President Keith Faber all but drove a stake through the bills in a statement yesterday, saying he doesn't "believe there is current support for this issue in the General Assembly" and it only serves to "generate a bunch of breathless fundraising appeals from the Ohio Democratic Party."
In a news conference about 30 minutes following Roegner and Maag's Statehouse appearance, Joe Rugola, past president of the Ohio AFL-CIO and current executive director of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, made the "Germany" reference and also said "our intention is to make war on those who want to make war on the middle class."
Asked if he meant to compare the introduction of right-to-work legislation to the Nazis, Rugola said "no, I meant to compare it to extremism.
"I don't know how far some of the more extreme elements in our legislature plan to take their policy agenda," he said.
The hour of high drama at the capital was eerily reminiscent of two years ago when the Senate Bill 5 saga unfolded. In one room, Roegner and Maag discussed their bills with a few Republican lawmakers scattered behind them in support.
In the other – a packed house of Democratic lawmakers and union representatives talking about right-to-work would make Ohio workers "less free, less safe, and worse off."
"Not less than two years ago Ohioans rejected similar legislation, Senate Bill 5, by an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote statewide," said state Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard of Columbus. "Yet here we stand responding to their introduction of legislation that is worse than Senate Bill 5."
Gov. John Kasich, the spokesman for GOP efforts to limit has refused to support the right-to-work movement in Ohio.
"I cannot see the controversy here," said Maag, whose bill would ban forced union participation in the public sector. "I could see that some people might set a narrative that is a little different, but again, the worker's right to choose, how can anybody say anything bad about that?"
Roegner, whose bill focuses on the private sector, said both her and Maag's bills have 16 co-sponsors. She said proposing two bills and a joint resolution to place Right to Work on the ballot was a way for the "General Assembly, as we have these open discussions with interested parties, we can say 'what is the best path forward?' "
Debating the links between Senate Bill 5 and right-to-work legislation, Roegner said Senate Bill 5 was "about putting guardrails around collective bargaining" and the new bills proposed are "quite the opposite."
"This is saying 'workers, you have the freedom, you have the freedom to join a union, to pay to be represented by them, or not.' "
But the effort to defeat Senate Bill 5 at the ballot box was led by a coalition of labor groups, perhaps none more vocal than police unions. Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, said right to work is "a big deal" for his members.
"My concern is it's another attack on the middle class in the state of Ohio," McDonald said. "I think the statistics prove out that they don't create jobs – six of the 10 states with the highest unemployment are right-to-work states. What is indisputable is wages are lower, considerably lower. It's another attempt to remove the voice of the worker from the workplace."
"Leadership is telling us this is not one of their priority issues. However we have to be watchful and mindful at every turn. It wasn't on the agenda in Michigan and Indiana until it was on the agenda."
Dispatch reporter Jim Siegel contributed to this story.