Ohio Representative Slams Right-To-Work Legislation

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In a statement released Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Albany) slammed right-to-work legislation winding its way through the Ohio House.

House Bill 151 and House Joint Resolution 5 were introduced by House Republicans in May. Both would prohibit private employers from compelling an employee to join or remain a member of a union or a similar employee organization.

Phillips represents the 94th House District that includes eastern Vinton County and was recently sworn in as assistant minority leader. She said voters rejected limits on collective bargaining by repealing Senate Bill 5 in November 2011.

“Ohioans rejected Gov. Kasich’s attack on the middle class by voting down SB 5, yet House Republicans seem to have missed the point and continue to push unsafe, unfair and divisive policies. We need to stand together and demand an end to these attacks.” Phillips said.

HB 151 would add provisions to the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) prohibit any requirement that employees of private employers join or pay dues to any employee organization and to establish civil and criminal penalties against employers who violate that prohibition.

Chief sponsor of HB 151, Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) said the legislation is designed to secure freedom in the workplace and eliminate what she described as compulsory unionism in the private sector.

“Right-to-work is not some vague philosophical construct, but rather a very real and concrete way that we can simultaneously take a stand for individual worker freedom while establishing an environment inviting to business, one where the private sector will drive increased job creation,” Roegner said.

Roegner also sponsored HJR 5 which, if approved by the Legislature, would create a ballot initiative to amend Section 22 of Article I of the state constitution to prohibit employees from being forced to participate in a labor organization as a condition of employment.

“HJR5 will allow the voters to decide this very important issue and based on the strong polling data, it appears that the majority of Ohioans are ready and willing to take a stand for personal freedom in the workplace,” Roegner said.

While HB 151 would apply to private sector companies, a third piece of legislation, HB 152, would impose the same conditions on public sector employers. Roegner is listed as a cosponsor of the bill.

“Every employee should have the right to choose themselves whether to join a union or not. Freedom is a fundamental American principle and there should be no barriers to personal freedom in this state,” Roegner said.

Phillips said workers in states with so-called right-to-work laws have lower wages, with an average household income $6,437 less per year and less safe workplaces, with 36 percent more workplace fatalities. 

HB 152 is in the State and Local Government Committee and HB 152 and HJR 5 are in Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee. Roegner could not say when future hearings are scheduled.