Ohio

Workplace Freedom Bills Introduced in Ohio House

Policy
Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson)

State Representative Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) held a May 1 press conference announcing the introduction of two bills which would make Ohio the 25th workplace freedom state. Roegner has drafted legislation to prevent private-industry labor unions from taking dues as a condition of employment, while Maag is the primary sponsor of a parallel bill for government unions.

Rep. Roegner noted that a joint resolution to put workplace freedom on the ballot this November has been introduced, as well. Almost immediately, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) issued a statement throwing cold water on all three House proposals.

“These three pieces of pro-worker legislation are designed to secure Ohioans’ freedom in the workplace, and would eliminate compulsory unionism in our Buckeye State,” Roegner said before listing the 24 states – including neighboring Indiana and Michigan – where unions are already prohibited from taking mandatory dues from workers.

“While economic benefits are compelling for why Ohio should do this, it is a fundamental principle of worker freedom which is driving this legislation,” Roegner added.

Explaining why the legislation was being introduced as two separate bills and a joint resolution, Roegner said, “Representative Maag and I thought that having these two bills and the joint resolution would provide the most flexibility for the General Assembly and the workers in Ohio to decide how to approach this important issue, and give good flexibility to finding solutions.”

Assistant Majority Floor Leader John Adams (R-Sidney) cited a study by Ohio University professor Richard Vedder which “found that between 2000 and 2008, 4.8 million Americans moved from forced-union states to right to work states. That’s one person for every minute of every day.”

Rep. Adams pointed out that workplace freedom states are rapidly closing the historic gap with states where workers can be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Readers can watch the entire Statehouse press conference below.

Although Roegner clearly stated her belief that economic reasons for adopting workplace freedom are trumped by the principle of freedom of association, legacy media reporters at the press conference seemed baffled that a workplace freedom bill was being introduced while Governor John Kasich insists the state’s economy is rebounding.

“This did not come from the governor’s office,” Roegner explained. “It’s our responsibility to introduce legislation that we believe would be best for Ohioans, so we’ve done that.”

Reporters’ questions – like their news coverage to date – also reflected a fixation on Senate Bill 5, the 300-page public union reform bill defeated by a landslide in November 2011 after a $40 million union campaign.

“Senate Bill 5 was about collective bargaining and putting sort of guardrails around collective bargaining,” Rep. Roegner said. “This is quite the opposite of that. This is saying, ‘workers, you have the freedom to join a union, to pay to be represented by them, or not,’ so to me this is quite the opposite issue.”

“This is all about freedom, individual freedom to choose – you know, that resonates with people, it really does, and poll after poll shows that,” Roegner responded to another question.

“Unions would say it’s all about mooching,” NPR reporter Jo Ingles interjected. Ingles and other reporters appeared agitated that House conservatives are introducing legislation so reviled by union bosses.

“We knew extreme politicians were going to try to enact revenge with so-called ‘right to work’ and this week it happened,” union front We Are Ohio spokesman Dennis Willard wrote in an email sent several hours before the Roegner and Maag presser. “Two anti-worker lawmakers introduced legislation to lower wages, reduce benefits, and make your job and your co-workers’ jobs less safe.”

Refer to previous Media Trackers coverage to see how Ohio stacks up against workplace freedom states: